What causes eczema in adults? Major symptoms, causes and treatments

What causes eczema in adults? (Photo via Pexels/cottonbro studio)
What causes eczema in adults? (Photo via Pexels/cottonbro studio)

What causes eczema in adults? While researchers do not know the exact cause of eczema in adults, many believe that the skin condition may occur due to genetics and certain environmental factors.

Eczema is considered a childhood condition, and many believe that it can’t develop in adulthood. However, the truth is that it can also occur in adults, especially older adults, and lead to a variety of symptoms.

Although many of these symptoms are similar in children and adults, there are differences between the two. Continue reading to learn more about what causes eczema in adults along with their symptoms and treatment options.


What is eczema and what causes eczema in adults?

Eczema can occur in adulthood, too. (Photo via Pexels/Kindel Media)
Eczema can occur in adulthood, too. (Photo via Pexels/Kindel Media)

Eczema is a skin condition that causes the skin to become itchy, dry and bumpy, which further weakens the skin’s barrier. It's a type of dermatitis - a group of conditions that leads to skin inflammation.

There are several types of eczema, with each having unique triggers that can possibly affect your overall skin condition. These include:

  • atopic dermatitis
  • contact dermatitis
  • neurodermatitis
  • dyshidrotic eczema
  • seborrheic dermatitis
  • nummular eczema

Eczema in adults: What causes eczema in adults?

When adults get eczema, doctors call it adult-onset atopic dermatitis. It mostly develops in your 50s.

Most adults who have eczema already had it as a child as it generally starts in childhood. It clears up for some time and then returns later on after years. In others, though, eczema may suddenly occur for the first time as an adult.

Adults can get any type of eczema, but there are some that are most common in adults, including:

  • asteatotic eczema
  • varicose eczema

What causes eczema in adults and children: What’s the difference?

One of the most striking differences between eczema in children and adults is how the skin looks and feels. In adults, the skin becomes extremely scaly, dry and itchy.

Unlike children, adults get eczema on different parts of their bodies, including the back of the knees, back of the neck, face and crooks of the elbows. Eczema in adults can occur around the eyes, too.


What are the major symptoms of eczema in adults?

Dry skin can be a symptom of eczema in adults. (Photo via Pexels/Jenna Hamra)
Dry skin can be a symptom of eczema in adults. (Photo via Pexels/Jenna Hamra)

Major symptoms of eczema in adults include:

  • skin infections
  • dry, cracked skin
  • severe itching
  • crusting and oozing
  • increased chance of hay fever and allergies
  • depression and anxiety
  • thickened skin
  • bumps on the skin
  • skin inflammation and swelling

What causes eczema in adults?

Most of the causes of eczema in adults and children are the same. While genetics is one of the major factors that contributes to the risk of eczema in adults, there are several other causes as well, including:

Environment: Environmental factors lik eair pollutants, smoke, harsh soaps and skin products can irritate the skin and lead to eczema. Dry air can also make the skin itchy and dry and lead to skin infections like dermatitis.

Genetics: If there's a history of eczema in your family, you're more likely to get it. Additionally, a family history of eczema or dermatitis also increases risk of allergies and hay fever.

Emotional factors: Excessive stress and anxiety can also affect skin health and cause a flare-up of eczema in adults.


What triggers eczema in adults?

What causes eczema in adults? (Photo via Pexels/Sora Shimazaki)
What causes eczema in adults? (Photo via Pexels/Sora Shimazaki)

Eczema affects each person differently, which means that what triggers your symptoms might not flare up someone else’s condition.

Nevertheless, some common things that can trigger eczema in adults include:

  • certain fabrics or clothing
  • low humidity or dry weather
  • skincare products
  • soaps and detergents
  • pollutants and smoke
  • stress
  • coming in contact with something you are allergic to

What are the treatments for eczema in adults?

There are several treatment options for eczema in adults. Doctors may recommend:

#1 Medications

Your healthcare provider may recommend certain medications to manage symptoms and cure eczema.

Immunosuppressants: A doctor may recommend immunosuppressants if you have severe eczema. These medications basically stop the immune system from overreacting.

Cortisone: Cortisone is a steroid cream that reduces swelling, itchiness and inflammation. A doctor may prescribe cortisone cream if you have severe dryness and itching.

#2 Lifestyle changes

Switching to a healthier lifestyle can also help manage the condition. That can include following proper sleep hygiene, exercising daily or using bodywashes and soaps without fragrances or chemicals.


So, this was all about what causes eczema in adults. Taking preventive measures and switching to lifestyle changes can reduce risk of flare-ups and keep eczema and other skin-related problems and infections away.