Atopic Skin: What Is It and What Causes It?

Atopic skin causes itching and redness of different areas of the body, often accompanied by scratching lesions. It's a very annoying disorder, but there are measures you can take to control the symptoms.
Atopic Skin: What Is It and What Causes It?

Last update: 21 April, 2021

Atopic skin, also called atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin disease. It’s characterized by severe itching and dermatological redness. Moreover, it’s a health issue that occurs in outbreaks and, for example, tends to worsen during the winter.

Atopic skin is a fairly common disorder. Specialists estimate that it affects about 20 % of children and about 3 % of adults. In recent decades, the incidence of this issue has increased significantly.

It seems that this increase is related to pollution and today’s lifestyle, since stress is one of its aggravating factors. Therefore, in this article, we’ll explain what it is, why it happens, and what to do if you suffer from it.

What is atopic skin?

As we’ve already mentioned, it’s an inflammatory skin disease. The underlying condition is dryness of the dermis and epidermis, which causes itching and discomfort. When scratched, the skin is very easily irritated, reddened and often flakes.

The itching of atopic dermatitis can become very unpleasant, preventing proper rest. As a result, it can even be accompanied by mood swings and irritability. In infants, it’s associated with a characteristic personality type, in people who are jittery and have difficulty in finding calm.

It should be noted that it’s much more common in children and usually appears before the age of 5 years. This condition affects flexion areas, such as the knees, elbows or buttocks. It also usually affects the face. In adults the same is true, but it may be less obvious.

People suffering from atopic skin usually have other associated issues, such as asthma, rhinitis or allergic conjunctivitis. In addition, outbreaks occur, generally in winter, because the cold and the lack of humidity increase the dryness of the skin.

A boy with red skin.
Atopic dermatitis is more common in childhood.

What are the causes?

Scientists consider that atopic skin has a multifactorial etiology. However, there’s a strong genetic predisposition to suffer from it. That is, if there’s a family history of atopic skin, allergy or asthma, it’s more likely to appear.

However, environmental, allergic and dietary factors also play a role. First of all, the influence of the climate must be emphasized once again, since cold and pollution seem to worsen this disease considerably.

On the other hand, there are other risk factors such as women’s sex or age. Women are more likely to suffer from atopic skin. Similarly, if a woman becomes pregnant at an older age, the baby is more likely to suffer from it.

Some outbreaks may be triggered by a food allergy. In the end, the mechanism is the same, with the skin unable to maintain adequate moisture, but the trigger is an ingested ingredient.

A woman with dry skin on her face.
Females are more affected by atopic skin than males.

How to treat atopic skin

The most important thing is to always ask a doctor. Atopic skin is a delicate condition for which there are certain specific products when it comes to hygiene. Therefore, it’s always best to have a doctor recommend them.

It’s essential to always keep the skin moisturized and to avoid scratching, as this causes lesions and irritates the skin even more. For hydration there are a number of simple tips that can help:

  • Try to avoid very hot water baths. The ideal thing is to take showers of about ten minutes with lukewarm water.
  • Use appropriate gels and soaps recommended by a dermatologist.
  • Moisturize the skin frequently with a specific cream for atopic skin.
  • In winter, try to stay away from the cold. When you’re at home, if you use the heating, use humidifiers to keep the environment from being excessively dry.
  • Choose your clothes wisely. Natural fabrics are softer than synthetic ones, such as cotton. It’s important that, above all, pajamas and sheets are made of these fabrics.

Atopic skin can be a very uncomfortable condition. For this reason, it’s essential to follow all the advice recommended by a specialist, and thus control the symptoms correctly. Although chronic, it’s a manageable condition.

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