Prof. Luca Valgimigli
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder that owes its name to the fact that it is not localized in a specific place (a-topic = non-localized), but occurs in different areas of the body or face.
For example, it can occur in the area around the mouth and eyes, in the back of the hands and feet, in the arms, in the folds of the elbows and knees. Although it is more frequent in the first years of age, it can nevertheless occur in children even later in time or even in adulthood.
It can have a chronic relapsing course, that is, it arises in the pediatric age and then fades over time until it disappears, then it recurs even after many years.
How does atopic dermatitis manifest itself?
The most common symptoms of atopic dermatitis are dry skin, cracking, redness, severe itching, peeling. It can manifest itself in the form of erythema and present the formation of blisters: it is also called atopic eczema.
. Itching is one of the most annoying and critical aspects, because it induces scratching, thus causing greater inflammation and triggering a vicious circle that aggravates the situation. Scratching can also cause abrasions and injuries that can pave the way for infections by Staphylococcus and other microorganisms that normally live on the skin or in the area under the nails.
Although atopic dermatitis is not an infectious disease and cannot be transmitted, it can nevertheless be aggravated by the onset of this type of infection.
What are the causes of atopic dermatitis?
The causes of atopic dermatitis are not yet fully understood, although much has been discovered and it is now certain that it is due to the combination of numerous factors, including: genetic (predisposition), environmental, metabolic, dietary and psychosomatic factors.
In recent years, its frequency seems to be increasing at all ages, even if the reasons are not at all clear.
This suggests the importance of environmental factors such as the presence of increasing pollution, as well as their influence on the emotional state (stress, anxiety), but it seems also linked to the change in what we eat.
An important role seems to be played by the immune system: most of the subjects with atopic dermatitis show an excessive reaction to external stimuli, allergens and irritants, mainly mediated by type E immunoglobulins (IgE), not very effective in defending the organism and normally involved in the onset of allergies.
. It is not clear, however, whether this behavior of the immune system is the cause of atopic dermatitis or a consequence of other factors.
Several studies indicate that dietary factors play an important role in atopic dermatitis and a recent study, in particular, highlights how the mother’s diet and the incorrect balance of polyunsaturated lipids during pregnancy cause a family predisposition to atopic dermatitis in the child.
The importance of the lipids of the stratum corneum and the hydro-lipid barrier
Several studies show that at the base of atopic dermatitis there are alterations in the composition of the skin’s lipids.
Among the most significant alterations, in atopic dermatitis there are differences in the content of essential fatty acids compared to normal skin, with an increased presence of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) at the expense of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA); in addition, the internal balance of polyunsaturated fatty acids is also altered, with a reduced content of long-chain essential fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and with an altered ratio between omega-3 and omega-6.
In atopic dermatitis, the reduced activity of an enzyme, the delta-6-desaturase, is observed, which causes an increased content of alpha-linolenic acid and a reduced content of gamma-linolenic acid and stearidonic acid which have an anti-inflammatory action and regulate the function of the immune system
Some studies show that these variations are not simply coincident but are the cause of the main manifestations related to atopic dermatitis, such as dryness of the skin, flaking and alteration of the physiological hydro-lipid barrier, which constitutes the main defense of the skin from external agents.
What are the consequences of atopic dermatitis?
In addition to itching, which is sometimes difficult to bear, atopic dermatitis often leads to thickening of the skin with hyperkeratosis and the formation of papules and indurations (lichenification), which are very difficult to reverse.
But the consequences may not only be localized to the skin: a recent study shows that adults with atopic dermatitis have a greater risk of bone fractures, proportional to its severity. So it is important not to underestimate it, even if it is mild, and to treat it promptly.
Remedies for atopic dermatitis: how can it be treated?
There is no definitive drug therapy for atopic dermatitis.
In the acute phase it can be treated with anti-inflammatories such as cortisone and hydrocortisone or with more powerful corticosteroids.
However, the effectiveness is reduced over time, requiring an increase in the dosage with important side effects, including impaired immune defenses. Often it is necessary to stop the treatment and alternate it with cycles in which only a moisturizer is applied to keep the skin soft and reduce itching.
Infusions of lemon balm, valerian, escolzia, passionflower and hops or food supplements that contain them, such as Tranquilla Menteâ, relieving anxiety can act on psychosomatic causes. In addition, supplements rich in anti-inflammatory plant extracts such as Leni Malâ, rich in Boswellia, Turmeric and Tanacetum, can help.
Some studies show that the intake of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) reduces the manifestations of atopic dermatitis and the need for corticosteroids. Therefore, a diet that includes borage oil, and blackcurrant very rich in GLA could help. Algae like Schizochytrium or DHA-rich bluefish could also alleviate the condition.
BeC has formulated a specific treatment unique of its kind: the lino-dÉrmAâ cream rich in algal DHA, gamma-linolenic acid and stearidonic acid, as well as essential fatty acids from blackcurrant, borage and echium oils, in an exclusive highly bioavailable form, and carefully dosed to restore the correct balance of omega-3 and omega-6.
The formula aims to rebuild the physiological hydro-lipidic barrier. In addition, it contains a synergy of plant extracts with an anti-inflammatory action such as chamomile, eucalyptus, cumin and aloe, and has demonstrated a soothing action identical to the hydrocortisone ointment, while being completely natural and free of side effects.
The moisturizing and emollient active ingredients keep the skin hydrated and elastic, eliminating itching.
Due to its unique characteristics it could represent the ideal natural remedy for atopic dermatitis at all ages.