Atopic dermatitis is often also called neurodermatitis, atopic or endogenous eczema. It is one of the so-called atopies: disorders where a person reacts excessively to substances in the environment due to a genetic predisposition. This includes, for instance, asthma, conjunctivitis, allergic rhinitis and allergic gastrointestinal inflammation. Patients suffer bouts of eczema with reddening, swelling, incrustation, flaking or blisters.
Children are particularly prone to atopic dermatitis
In Switzerland, approximately 20% of all children are affected by atopic dermatitis. The disorder mostly starts in infants and eases with increasing age. An estimated 3% to 4% of adults are affected.
Causes and triggers of atopic dermatitis
The cause of atopic dermatitis remains only partially understood. Genetic predisposition plays a major role. The children of parents suffering from atopic dermatitis are often also affected by an atopic disorder. Skin barrier dysfunction and the immune system can also influence the development of atopic dermatitis. Environmental factors, such as dry heating air, food, pollen, animal hair, dust mites, chemical substances or stress can trigger atopic dermatitis but are not the actual cause of the disorder.
When the skin barrier is damaged
The skin’s barrier function is impaired in persons suffering from atopic dermatitis. Substances in the environment can thus penetrate the skin and trigger inflammation. Infections caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi also occur more frequently, which can additionally damage the skin barrier. Atopic skin loses a lot of moisture. It is therefore dry, sensitive and often thin. Refattening and moisturising care specially tailored for atopic skin are therefore required as prevention and therapy.