What is atopic dermatitis and how can it be treated?

Hi everybody, I’m Dr Liv Kraemer (M.D., PhD.) a board certified dermatologist with a focus on skincare, skin food and preventative dermatology in Zurich. Do you suffer from itchy skin particular during stressful times? Maybe your parents also suffered from allergies, asthma or skin diseases like eczema? I will tell you what atopic dermatitis is and give you a few tips to manage intense itching:

It often has a family history! If your parents suffer from allergic rhinitis, asthma or dry skin you have a high tendency to get problems with itchy skin as well. We call it genetic or hereditary.

Your skin barrier function is not working as it should. Compare your surface of the skin with a cobblestone wall. This wall is normally well sealed on top. Also, the mortal between the bricks is well sealed. But in atopic dermatitis, this mortal is getting cracky as a protein name filaggrin is missing. Water can disappear. Suddenly you get a dry and itchy skin. If this continues, it might end up in a skin condition called eczema. It can affect larger areas of your body, but you can’t say it’s spreading as it’s not an infection.

If the skin barrier is weak, the incidence is higher to get a skin infection. Take care of your skin with the right behaviour. Use the right skin barrier moisture program with rich creams and ointments.

How does atopic dermatitis look like?

Different ages, different stages!

  • Infancy/babies: It appears mostly in the face and diaper area.
  • Older children: It’s a chronic form. It’s dryer, more diffused and seasonal related. Typical localization is the elbow inside and knee bend.
  • Adulthood: Smaller areas are involved like eyelids and the neck. It’s called the dirty neck syndrome. The brownish colour comes from inflamed eczema.

Typical signs could be: Fewer eyebrows on the sides and dark eye circles (but not everybody with dark circles has atopic dermatitis). But please do not confuse it with psoriasis.

What triggers atopic dermatitis?

  • Period of intense stress can trigger atopic dermatitis. It could be stress in school before exams, problems at work, or intense family stress.
  • Food allergens can enhance the itchy skin. But for most people they don’t. Check how you react with milk, eggs, fish, peanuts, soybeans or wheat. Don’t overreact, it’s just a possibility.
  • Wool can be a trigger factor, too.

What can help with itchy skin?

  • Stop scratching! You will hurt the affected area and spread your bacteria from your fingernails into your skin. Cut your fingernails very short. Try to stay calm and relax with yoga and sports.
  • Say goodbye to the bubble bath! Instead, use oil baths – care about your skin and take a bath with oil. Don’t use the oil from your kitchen! Go instead to the pharmacy and buy a medical oil. It will relax you and recover your sensitive skin as it will seal the surface of your skin and makes it more resistant
  • Don’t use soap! Choose shower oil instead!
  • Use 100% cotton and try to avoid clothing made of wool or a synthetic fabric like rayon or polyester.
  • Remove the clothing tags as they will irritate your skin over time
  • Avoid direct contact with perfumes! Put it on your clothes. Avoid etheric oils as well!
  • Apply a cold compress on your face which might give you a relief
  • Moisturize with fat ointment creams after taking a shower or bath Try not to rub your body to heavy with your towel after the shower, try to tab dry your body.
  • Try to have a dust free bedroom. What does is it mean?
  • Try not to have open bookshelves or printers in your room where you sleep. If you have just a studio, try to buy drawers and bookshelves which you can close with doors.
  • Try to avoid carpets in your bedroom and keep all your stuff inside. You can avoid dust and remove dust quicker.
  • Also, try to cover up your bed with a blanket to avoid dust and dirt on your bed sheets and pillows.

There is also a very good tool from Nestlé Skin Health called itch tracker. You can use this app with your Apple watch and learn more about your behaviour. Read more about it here!

 If you ask yourself can atopic dermatitis be cured? Unfortunately, not. You are born with this skin disease, but it can be treated. It is important to see a dermatologist for the right diagnosis. There are many individual treatments to help you with your itchy skin.

If you want to book an appointment click here!

Learn more about healthy skin and follow me on my social media accounts:

Youtube! ➜ youtube.com/DrLiv

Facebook! ➜ facebook.com/DrLiv

Instagram! ➜ instagram.com/drliv/

Pinterest! ➜ pinterest.de/drlivkraemer/

Twitter! ➜ twitter.com/doctorliv/

Thank you for your support, for your comments and likes.


Dr. Liv💕

Ps. here are some interesting medical literature if you need more information:

  • Journal of American Academy of Dermatology Abramovitsj. Atopic dermatitis. Section Overview of inflammatory skin diseases–the latest findings in cellular biology.
  • Dermatologic Disorders (Chapter 6). McPhee
  • Journal of AAD 2014; Eichenfield: Guidelines of care for the management of atopic dermatitis Section 2. Management and treatment of atopic dermatitis with topical therapies
  • Dogs with atopic dermatitis