Atopic eczema is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by dryness of the skin, eczematous lesions in typical locations and severe itching. The disease is rooted in inheritance but the definite cause of atopic eczema is not completely understood. It is often accompanied by other atopic disorders such as hay fever and allergic asthma.
As one of the most common diseases of childhood it affects nearly every fifth child. Typically the eczematous skin lesions occur not until the fourth month of life. At that time the lesions are often exsudative and usually located at the head and at the extensor sides of the arms and legs. After the first year of life the lesions become drier. Now the big flexures (e.g. elbow flexures, neck, knee bends, writs) but also the face, hands and feet are primarily affected. In the inflamed areas the skin can thicken (lichenification) due to the chronic course of the disease. From the third decade of life additional nodular lesions with severe itchiness may develop on the extensor sides of the extremities.
In one third of the children the disease dies out during infancy. In the remaining two thirds the symptoms persist with variable severity into adulthood. Occasionally the disease does not become noticeable until then.
One reason for the dryness of the skin and the disturbance of the skin barrier function is a lack of ceramides. Ceramides are special kinds of lipids sealing the interspaces of the uppermost cells of the skin thus preventing an excessive loss of water. Topical application of Omega-6-fatty acids, extracted from natural oils (grape seed oil, evening primerose oil), can strengthen the skin barrier. They are directly incorporated into the lipids of the uppermost skin layer contributing to the repair of the impaired barrier function. Furthermore, skin soothing Licochalcone, an extract from the root of Glycyrrhiza inflate, calmes irritated skin and causes a reduction of the concomitant redness. Regular application of skin care products will help to control the disease and reduce the number of flare-ups.