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Is Eczema Genetic? Everything You Need to Know about Eczema and Genetics

We get a lot of questions from parents about eczema, or atopic dermatitis. As many of our friends and family are having second babies, we are asked regularly about whether eczema is genetic. If one of your kids has it, does that mean your other kids are likely to have it as well? We did some research on the genetics of eczema and we break down the available science on that topic here.

Oh and PS if you haven’t yet, check out our Common Questions and Answers About Eczema in Babies and Children and our Guide to Eczema in Babies and Children for a breakdown of what eczema is and what eczema looks like. In this post, we go over the ins and outs of the genetics of eczema. 

Our top three questions about eczema & genetics, answered: 

1. Is eczema genetic?

    This question is more complicated than it seems, but in short the answer is that it can be. Eczema can be triggered by genetics and by environmental factors. However, genetics do play a role in whether a child has eczema. There is a link between parents and children who have eczema. Children whose parent(s) have eczema are two to three times more likely to have it than other kids (Biagini Myers & Khurana Hershey). Interestingly, fathers are less likely to pass eczema on to children than mothers are (Diepgen & Bletner). In fact, fathers are only about half as likely to pass atopic dermatitis genetically on to their children. Though there is a correlation between parents and children with eczema, the correlation is more pronounced between siblings.

    2. Does eczema affect siblings?

    There is a stronger genetic link between siblings with eczema than between parent-child pairs. There is also a “very high correlation” between eczema and genetics, with respect to monozygotic (identical) twins (van Beijsterveldt et al.). This is not the case, however, with children with food allergies, even though having eczema and having food allergies is closely linked (Gupta).

    3. How are studies about eczema heritability done?

    Bodily tissue is used to test for genes that contribute to atopic triad causes. One of the most important genes to test for is called filaggrin (FLG), a protein found in the skin. If there is at least one FLG null allele found in gene tests, children are more likely to have asthma, allergies, and eczema (the atopic triad, Biagini Myers & Khurana Hershey).

    4. How are eczema and food allergies linked?

    You may have heard of the atopic triad. It explains the linkage between having allergies, asthma, and eczema. Essentially, if your child has one, they are more likely to have another of the three “points” in the triad. As an allergy conscious company, we do our best to steer clear of nut-based oils, and ensure that we are fully transparent about any potential allergens like gluten or licorice extract. If you have any questions about our ingredients, Contact Us.

    There you have it! For those of you who want to read more or review the studies yourself, see the sources below!

    Sources & Further Readings

    Biagini Myers, Jocelyn M., and Gurjit K. Khurana Hershey. “Eczema in Early Life: Genetics, the Skin Barrier, and Lessons Learned from Birth Cohort Studies.” The Journal of Pediatrics, vol. 157, no. 5, Mosby, Inc, 2010, pp. 704–14, doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2010.07.009.

    Brown, Sara J., and W. .. Irwin Mclean. “Eczema Genetics: Current State of Knowledge and Future Goals.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, vol. 129, no. 3, Elsevier Inc, Mar. 2009, pp. 543–52, doi:10.1038/jid.2008.413.

    Cramer, Claudia, et al. “Elder Siblings Enhance the Effect of Filaggrin Mutations on Childhood Eczema: Results from the 2 Birth Cohort Studies LISAplus and GINIplus.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, vol. 125, no. 6, Elsevier Limited, June 2010, pp. 1254–60, doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2010.03.036.

    Diepgen, Thomas L., and Maria Blettner. “Analysis of Familial Aggregation of Atopic Eczema and Other Atopic Diseases by Odds Ratio Regression Models.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, vol. 106, no. 5, Elsevier Inc, May 1996, pp. 977–81, doi:10.1111/1523-1747.ep12338475.

    Dizier, Marie-Hélène, et al. “The ANO3/MUC15 Locus Is Associated with Eczema in Families Ascertained through Asthma.” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, vol. 129, no. 6, Elsevier Inc, June 2012, pp. 1547–1553.e3, doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2012.04.010.

    Gupta, Ruchi MD, MPH. "Study Shows Siblings of Kids with Food Allergies aren’t Necessarily Also Allergic." American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 5 Nov. 2015, acaai.org/news/study-shows-siblings-kids-food-allergies-aren%E2%80%99t-necessarily-also-allergic.

    Hongping Guo, et al. “Identifying Shared Risk Genes for Asthma, Hay Fever, and Eczema by Multi-Trait and Multiomic Association Analyses.” Frontiers in Genetics, vol. 11, Frontiers Media S.A, Apr. 2020, p. 270, doi:10.3389/fgene.2020.00270.

    Saunes, Marit, et al. “Family Eczema-History in 2-Year-Olds with Eczema; a Prospective, Population-Based Study. The PACT-Study, Norway.” BMC Dermatology, vol. 11, no. 1, May 2011, pp. 11–11, doi:10.1186/1471-5945-11-11.

    Spergel, Jonathan, and Jonathan Spergel. “Risk Factors for Atopic Dermatitis in New Zealand Children at 3.5 Years of Age.” Pediatrics, vol. 118, no. Supplement_1, Aug. 2006, pp. S5–S5, doi:10.1542/peds.2006-0900H.

    van Beijsterveldt, C. E. M., et al. “Genetics of Parentally Reported Asthma, Eczema and Rhinitis in 5-Yr-Old Twins.” European Respiratory Journal, vol. 29, no. 3, 2007, pp. 516–21, doi:10.1183/09031936.00065706.