Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease characterized by redness (eczema), dry skin, and itching. “Atopic” comes from the word atopy which describes a hereditary predisposition to allergic diseases (atopic dermatitis, allergic asthma, allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis), while dermatitis describes inflammation of the skin. However, if someone has AD it doesn’t immediately mean they have an allergy. AD results from dry, sensitive skin that is such due to lack of filaggrin, ceramides and lipids in the skin.
Filaggrin is a protein in the skin. It acts as a sticky matrix that facilitates the dense packaging of keratin fibers in epithelial cells. As cells change while moving from the deepest layers to the surface of the skin, filaggrin degrades into peptides, which are further broken down into natural moisturizing factors (NMF). By mutating the filaggrin gene with a reduced amount of ceramides and lipids, which characterizes atopic skin, the skin barrier becomes damaged, dry, and prone to inflammation.
Irritants and allergens penetrate the skin more easily through the damaged skin barrier, and an inadequate immune response causes an allergic reaction. However, as mentioned previously, atopic dermatitis doesn’t immediately mean that a person has an allergy. If there is one, the dermatologist recognizes it and proves it with tests, and the allergen to which the allergy is confirmed is avoided.
Signs and symptoms
Atopic dermatitis usually occurs on the face, neck, behind the knees and elbows. Due to the severe dryness, skin becomes flaky and people with atopic dermatitis have a strong feeling of itching, especially at night. Itching can significantly affect the quality of life and sleep, and it often results in scratched wounds that increase the risk of infection. Atopic dermatitis can also be present on the skin around the eyes and eyelids. Symptoms can range from mild to chronic, can last for several months, but can also reappear continuously throughout life. They usually worsen the most in winter, in conditions of cold and reduced humidity.
How to soothe the symptoms?
In addition to therapy prescribed by a dermatologist, skincare that includes creams with emollients and ceramides such as our Úna is very important, because it will supply the skin with lipids, prevent allergens from passing through the skin and reduce transepidermal water loss. Mild, soap-free cleansers for atopic dermatitis or oil baths will not cause further damage to the barrier. Cleansing should last as short as possible and the water shouldn’t be too hot. After cleansing, the skin should be gently dried, without rubbing with a towel. Also, it is recommended to wear cotton clothes, avoid wool, use mild, liquid laundry detergents, and avoid nutritional or inhalation allergens, if proven. Last, but certainly not least, it is recommended to avoid stress because of its impact on the immune system. The goal of atopic skin care is to normalize the skin barrier, reduce itching and irritation, encourage skin healing, regenerate the skin barrier, and prevent recurrence of symptoms.