Atopic dermatitis:
There are many
different causes.

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.