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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What causes eczema?

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    Prof Rodney Sinclair

    Dermatologist (Skin Specialist)

    Professor Sinclair is a Professor of Dermatology at the University of Melbourne and Director of Sinclair Dermatology. He is past-president of the Australasian Society for … View Profile

    The gene for eczema was discovered about three years ago; and it transpired that the gene responsible for most cases of eczema is the gene that encodes a protein called fillagrin. This gene is important in manufacturing the skin barrier that provides a waterproof seal on the external surface of the skin. Most people have two copies of this gene in every cell in their skin, so they've got two fillagrin factories making this protein.

    People with eczema only have one. That means that when the skin is injured it won't repair very quickly. When the skin is injured the waterproof seal is damaged, and two things happen. Firstly, moisture leaves the skin and the skin dries out, and secondly allergens, things that you're allergic to, enter the skin and trigger an immune response. One of the key things in managing eczema, is to not only treat the patches of eczema, but also to allow the waterproof seal to restore so that moisture can be retained in the skin. The skin can then be protected from substances which it is allergic to and this will allow the immune system to settle down.

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