Atopic dermatitis:
Itching and
disturbed skin barrier

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis – what is it?

Atopic dermatitis (also called atopic eczema) is common among children. Approx. 12-15% of children in Germany develop atopic dermatitis. The central elements of the condition are a damaged skin barrier and extremely dry skin. Atopic dermatitis is chronic, non-contagious skin inflammation that flares up at recurrent intervals. It is usually accompanied by severe itching, dry skin and eczema, with differing severity.

Atopic dermatitis belongs to the group of atopic diseases. Sufferers are more likely to develop asthma, hay fever and other allergies.

Symptoms of atopic dermatitis

  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Severe itching
  • Eczema, sometimes inflamed and/or weeping
  • Thickened or coarser areas of skin

Causes and triggers of atopic dermatitis

A clear differentiation must be made between the causes and triggers of this disease. The causes of atopic dermatitis are highly complex and have still not yet been fully researched. They include genetic factors – or hereditary preconditions – which play an important role in the development of atopic dermatitis.

Currently 12-15% of babies in Germany have atopic dermatitis at birth, with genetic predisposition being seen as the main cause. The likelihood of developing atopic dermatitis increases if somebody in the family already suffers from atopic dermatitis, asthma or hay fever.

The disease itself and also its recurrent flares can be triggered by a number of factors: pollen, house dust mites, foods and textiles are considered possible triggers. Infections can also trigger or worsen an atopic dermatitis flare in babies and young children.

Stress experienced by a child and/or caregiver should also be recognized as a trigger and thus be reduced.

Nowadays, scientists presume that the main problem affecting atopic dermatitis is a damaged skin barrier. This can be visualized as a brick wall where the cement has become porous or has fallen out. In the skin, this happens when there is an insufficient quantity of certain fats and protein components. The skin barrier normally protects the body against penetration by bacteria, viruses and allergens, and also against the loss of moisture. People who suffer from atopic dermatitis have a “porous” skin barrier that can allow certain allergens (e.g. foods, pollen, house dust mites) to enter the body in certain circumstances and trigger itching, for example. In addition, these “gaps” in the skin barrier also allow more moisture to be lost, which means that the skin becomes progressively dry.

How to treat atopic dermatitis

The progression, degree of severity and form of atopic dermatitis all vary from person to person. And each person reacts differently to potential stimuli that can trigger flares. Something that is unproblematic for one person can trigger an atopic flare for another. This means that it is not possible to give a generally valid recommendation, and so the treatment strategy must be individually adapted. Nevertheless, consistent basic skin care and avoiding individual stimuli that can trigger flares are part of every therapeutic approach. Good stress management and relaxation techniques can also have a beneficial effect on the complexion.

The areas of skin affected vary according to age

The skin of people with atopic dermatitis generally tends to be dry. The parts of the body affected by eczema vary according to age. In the case of infants, it is usually the face, scalp and extensor surfaces of the limbs that are affected. With children, typical eczema appears more frequently on the insides of the arms and legs, and also on the wrists and ankles. Teenagers and adults usually find that eczema appears on the face (especially eyelids) and hands.

Basic care for atopic skin

Daily skin care is an important foundation for the treatment of atopic dermatitis. During acute flares it is an important cornerstone for improving the skin condition in conjunction with therapy. The aim is to interrupt the vicious circle of itching and scratching, the resulting skin damage and loss of barrier function, and therefore counteract the penetration of allergens and irritants that in turn trigger more itching. Daily skin care provides moisture and lipids in between flares. This aims to increase skin suppleness and elasticity and extend the period without flares for as long as possible.

Suitable medical skin care products

Allpresan Derma med Repair Foam Cream ATOPIX INTENSIVE CARE is tailored specifically to the needs of atopic skin. Skin-related lipids close up the gaps in the lipid matrix of the skin barrier, which also encourages the skin to regenerate naturally. The innovative foam cream technology allows the products to be applied pleasantly and without irritation, and to be absorbed rapidly by the skin. Without any annoying greasy film.

The combination of the proven, highly effective products with pleasantly irritant-free application and very rapid absorption of the foam cream by the skin increases the willingness to care for the skin on a daily basis, which is so important, thereby further increasing the good effect due to regular application.

Children’s skin has special requirements.

Children are affected more frequently than adults

While only about 4% of adults in Germany suffer from atopic dermatitis, the percentage of children in Germany who are affected is currently between 12 and 15%. Atopic dermatitis usually first appears at an early age, in children and infants. In 50% of cases, initial symptoms appear during the first 12 months of the child’s life. The first sign is often a “milk crust”, which forms on an infant’s head as a whitish-yellow crust of scurf that looks like scorched milk. Even then, not every infant with a milk crust goes on to develop atopic dermatitis. This should not be mistaken for the sebaceous, yellowy infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis, or cradle cap, which is common among infants and which disappears again by itself.

How to treat children’s skin correctly

Children’s skin is thinner than adult skin. And as their sebaceous and sweat glands do not function as efficiently, this can lead to a greater likelihood of dry skin. Skin care products for use on children have special requirements. Artificial fragrances, colourants and preservatives should be avoided. And urea should not be used on small children younger than 4 years of age.

People with atopic dermatitis need to care for the skin twice daily, called basic care, as an important part of therapy for the condition. This care needs to be continued even when an acute flare has subsided in order to extend the period without flares. Trying to persuade children (and their parents) to care for the skin on a daily basis is a major challenge in the basic care of atopic dermatitis. Pleasantly gentle spreading on the skin, rapid absorption by the skin, and no greasy film left on the skin are all good prerequisites for allowing this daily application to become a ritual that can be actually fun. It is important to apply cream to the areas of skin that seem “normal” as well because the skin barrier there is also damaged.

Can atopic dermatitis be avoided in infants by applying cream as a prevention?

Newborn babies with at least one parent who suffers from atopic dermatitis, hay fever or another atopic condition are regarded as being especially at risk of developing atopic dermatitis. There are signs that the daily application of cream from the very beginning can prevent or at least delay the onset of eczema in the case of children who are at particular risk of developing atopic dermatitis. Further studies are necessary in order to make a verified statement here.