Your doctor has diagnosed you or your child as suffering from neurodermatitis. These days, neurodermitic illnesses aren’t rare. Between ten and twenty percent of children and one to three percent of adults suffer from neurodermatitis. It isn’t completely clear why someone should suffer from neurodermatitis, however. The tendency for the illness to develop is often inherited. Therefore, the risk of children suffering from neurodermatitis is especially high in families in which one or both parents suffer from allergies. Scientists have identified different genes which may be related to the occurrence of neurodermatitis, although a person’s genetic inheritance isn’t only responsible for the occurrence of the illness. Atopic eczema, or atopic dermatitis, as neurodermatitis is known in professional medical circles, also occurs without a hereditary disposition, which means external influences also have to play a role. Therefore, neurodermatitis is not an inherited illness in the classic sense.
Trigger factors for neurodermatitis
Trigger factors for neurodermitic attacks can, for instance, include environmental pollution, ozone, exhaust fumes, perfume, tobacco smoke and chemicals (especially cleaning agents), as well as excessively frequent washing and showering. Climatic factors such as extreme cold, heat or dryness can also have a negative impact on sensitive skin. Many allergy sufferers break out in a skin rash when they are under stress or if they become emotional. People who suffer from neurodermatitis have a particularly sensitive immune system which reacts to everything. This means allergens can also be viewed as being triggers, including, among others house dust mites, flower pollen, animal hair and food allergens. The house dust mite allergen is a very frequent trigger factor, for which a so-called encasing is recommended – an allergen-proof duvet cover that effectively prevents contact with dust mite allergens. For this reason, with a case of neurodermatitis that is allergy-based, as with all other neurodermitic illnesses, providing protection against allergens is especially sensible and important. As a key component in collaboration with the skin preparations, these encasings help to reduce the trigger factors for neurodermitic attacks.
The itch-scratch cycle
People with neurodermatitis usually have extremely dry skin, which is likely to be based on a changed composition of the natural oils in the skin. If the protective function of the skin barrier is damaged, the skin loses much more moisture than healthy skin. Allergens or substances can therefore penetrate the skin more easily, which generally leads to unbearable itching, and a vicious itch-scratch cycle then sets in: the skin is inflamed and itches but the scratching only provides temporary relief to the symptoms, as the itchiness always returns. In addition to this, an oversensitive immune system overreacts to harmless stimuli by sending out special forces, T-cells, towards the skin, which leads to the release of inflammatory agonists such as histamine. These messengers themselves stimulate specific nerve fibers, and thereby trigger the itching. Due to the continuous scratching, more and more messengers are now released, which means that the itching increases all the more. The inflamed skin becomes more and more damaged which means allergens, chemicals, bacteria, viruses and fungi can penetrate into the body more easily on the scratched areas. It is therefore important to bring the itch-scratch cycle to an end, and to protect and strengthen the skin barrier. Specially made suits are available for children that prevent them from scratching during the night.
There is as yet no cure for neurodermatitis, but it is possible to relieve the symptoms by avoiding contact with the triggers, caring for your skin appropriately and exposing yourself to as little stress as possible. In especially serious cases, the doctor can prescribe you with medicines.