Skin knowledge Our Skin Atopic eczema

Atopic eczema

Neurodermitis Icon
Woman stroking over the bend of the arm

Atopic eczema

Atopic eczema can be very uncomfortable due to the extreme dryness of the skin and itching. Learn more about the symptoms and causes of atopic eczema and how to care for it.

What is atopic eczema?

The term atopic eczema finds its original word origin in Greek. Here, “neuron” stands for nerve, “derma” for skin and the suffix “-itis” for the process of inflammation. In the meantime, however, the term “atopic dermatitis” or “atopic eczema” is preferred in technical language.

Atopic eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin disease with complex genetic, immunological and environmental causes.

The disturbed skin barrier leads to external physical or chemical stimuli as well as germs disturbing the balance of the skin and causing inflammation. The development of allergies is also influenced by the disturbed skin barrier, which favors allergen contact through the skin.

Increased water loss and reduced sebum production also lead to severe skin dryness, which also makes the skin more sensitive to cleansing measures. In addition to extreme dryness, scaling, redness and itching characterize the skin of atopic eczema sufferers.

Children are affected much more frequently than adults, although in many children the symptoms subside in the course of time until they are completely free of symptoms. However, the genetic predisposition remains and skin problems may reoccur in adulthood. Nowadays, various modern therapeutic approaches enable a very good life despite atopic eczema.

normal skin vs atopic ekzema infographic

What are the causes of atopic eczema? What happens in our body during atopic eczema?

There is a genetic and immunological disorder of the skin barrier. A filaggrin mutation is very frequently found. Among other things, filaggrin plays a role in anchoring the skin cells to each other, but also plays a role as a natural moisturizing factor in the formation of the hydrolipid film in the skin. Furthermore, the complex composition of the hydrolipid film is disturbed, e.g. instead of colonization with normal microorganisms (bacteria/yeasts), there is more often an incorrect colonization. This in turn leads to a disturbance of the hydrolipid film and favors infections and inflammations.  This allows external stimuli such as allergens to penetrate the skin and the body.

Another important point is the misregulation of immune cells in the skin, in which certain messenger substances (cytokines) become dominant (among others IL-4, IL-13).  This leads to the activation of inflammatory cells, which trigger redness, swelling, scaling and itching.

There is no question that the environment also plays a role in the development of atopic eczema. Children whose parents smoke and children who grow up in cities develop atopic eczema much more frequently and severely.

Atopic eczema is NOT contagious!

What can trigger a atopic eczema flare-up?

There are many internal and external triggers that can cause a atopic eczema flare-up.

These include:

Allergens (e.g., airborne such as pollen, animal dander, dust mites, or as contact allergens – nickel, fragrances, cosmetic ingredients)

Nutrition (food allergens)


Mental/ psychological stress

Environmental pollutants (nicotine, fine dust)

Textiles (especially wool or synthetic textiles)

Climatic conditions (dry air, little UV light)


“Wrong” insufficiently performed skin care

Proper care for atopic eczema

atopic eczema sufferers who regularly apply suitable care products to their skin relieve itching and improve the barrier function of the diseased skin.

A suitable care product should supply the skin with lipid-rich and moisturizing substances. It should also be as free as possible from allergens. In the case of atopic eczema, creams and skin care products containing the substances urea (urea), glycerin and panthenol have proven effective. Urea is one of the skin’s natural moisture retention factors and increases the hydration content of the horny layer. Glycerin supports the skin in its natural function and helps to supply it with moisture. Panthenol soothes the skin and contributes noticeably to skin relaxation.

Product recommendations for atopic eczema: