Atopy – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


Atopy is a skin disease characterized by red and inflamed patches of skin, often associated with allergic reactions and asthma . The treatment is carried out by careful skin care.

What is atopy?

Atopy is a very common, often long-lasting skin disease. It is a special form of allergic hypersensitivity that can include various symptoms.

These include: asthma, asthmatic allergies and chronic dermatitis . There is a known congenital factor in atopy, so it tends to run in families. Diagnosis is by noting typical symptoms such as: the typical rash and family history of allergies and asthma. In atopy, the skin becomes particularly sore and itchy , inflamed, and may swell, red, blister, and ooze.

Although atopy can occur at any age, it is particularly common in infants and young children. Atopy can persist into adulthood, slowly disappear, or develop into a disease that ebbs and flows in sufferers.


The causes of atopy are largely unknown, but the disease appears to be caused by a combination of congenital and environmental factors. There seems to be an underlying hypersensitivity and an increased tendency to itch and scratch.

Many examples show that atopy is linked to a number of disorders, such as hay fever and asthma, which many people with atopy also suffer from. Many children who show early signs of atopy also develop asthma and/or hay fever later on.

Even if one disorder does not necessarily produce the other, they seem somehow connected; however, this still puzzles researchers. Although emotional stress can produce symptoms at times, they are not the causative factor in the disease.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The appearance of an atopy can be very different. Typical symptoms include excessively dry skin with reddened and inflamed areas that are associated with severe itching . In most cases, there is also extensive thickening of the skin. In severe cases, bumps and pustules can form, which are also very itchy and in some cases cause bleeding or inflammation.

If atopy occurs in infancy, itchy reddening of the skin occurs, possibly associated with crusts and blisters. The head and face as well as the limbs and flexor creases are particularly affected. In small children and adolescents, the typical atopic symptoms occur primarily in the flexed joints, in the neck, and on the hands and wrists.

The skin takes on a leathery appearance and can sometimes be less sensitive to pain. The symptoms in adulthood are similar. In most cases, there are also severely itchy nodules and accompanying symptoms. Typically, breathing difficulties such as asthma , hay fever and allergic conjunctivitis occur, depending on the causative allergen and the constitution of the patient. In the further course, the skin disease can develop into a pronounced neurodermatitis . The development of a chronic disease cannot be ruled out.

Diagnosis & History

Atopy is usually diagnosed through a physical examination and a visual examination of skin symptoms performed by a dermatologist . Information about the medical history of the patient and his family can be helpful in the diagnosis.

Likewise, the doctor will likely ask questions about any allergies and rashes that have occurred. A biopsy (in this case a skin sample) and a subsequent laboratory test can also help in the diagnosis in rare cases. This also applies to analyzes of the blood, in which an increased value of certain white blood cells can be found.

Itchy skin is the most uncomfortable symptom of atopy for patients, but it appears in many skin diseases and is not a compelling indication of atopy. In some cases, a doctor will also carry out several examinations at intervals in order to make an exact diagnosis.


Various complications can occur with atopy. As a rule, the symptom is mainly associated with the onset of asthma and other allergic reactions and can lead to severe symptoms. In many cases, this also leads to an allergic inflammation of the conjunctiva.

Hay fever can make asthma worse. This usually severely restricts everyday life. This often leads to different rashes on the skin, which initially indicate an allergy. There is also itching on the skin, which can spread over the entire body. This is also a psychological burden for many people.

Atopy is treated at home in most cases, but the doctor must give the patient instructions on how to treat it. The skin needs regular care. Care should be taken to avoid scratching the skin. Wounds and scars can develop and the atopy is only increased. In most cases, with good skin care, the symptom disappears on its own and does not lead to any further problems.

When should you go to the doctor?

Anyone who discovers hypersensitivity to certain substances should always have this clarified by a doctor. Medical advice is particularly important in the case of severe symptoms. If, for example, itchy skin rashes, coughing and shortness of breath or severe abdominal pain occur as part of atopy, the cause must be determined with the help of an allergy test. Severe symptoms such as severe itching or shortness of breath should be investigated and treated immediately.

If you keep having breathing difficulties and other health problems, you should talk to your family doctor . Under certain circumstances, it is a question of a pronounced allergy, against which appropriate medical measures must be taken. If circulatory problems, severe shortness of breath or a collapse occur, the emergency doctor must be called immediately.

You may have life-threatening allergic shock that needs immediate treatment. Parents who notice symptoms of atopy in their children should not hesitate to consult a doctor. If the allergy is detected and treated early, major complications can usually be reliably avoided.

Treatment & Therapy

The treatment of a therapy consists for the most part of good cooperation between the treating dermatologist and the patient. The patient should scrupulously follow the doctor’s instructions to achieve relief from their symptoms.

Only a good understanding of one’s own illness can lead to success. The most important steps in therapy are therefore self-treatment at home and compliance with certain care measures. The skin must be kept healthy by taking measures. If the patient, together with the doctor, can identify direct triggers for symptoms, these circumstances should be avoided. This can successfully prevent getting lost in a “scratching vicious circle”.

For example, when it comes to skin care , it’s important to only use a recommended soap and moisturizer. Frequently changing products that come into contact with the skin can cause irritation. If necessary, the doctor may also recommend special treatment with medicated ointments and tinctures. These often contain cortisone, one of the most successful remedies for skin inflammation .

Outlook & Forecast

Atopy can be treated well in close cooperation with the doctor and taking various self-help measures into account. However, complete and permanent healing is rare.

Symptoms are treatable in most cases, but recurrent. In addition, numerous secondary diseases and complaints can occur, which often have a chronic course. For example, allergies and their physical characteristics are often considered incurable. Nevertheless, the affected person can be and remain symptom-free for a long time.

If the environmental influences change or if there is repeated contact with the irritant substance, the symptoms reappear. Over the lifespan, many patients experience an increase in the stimulus-triggering substances and, at the same time, deal with them better. In addition, the stability of the immune system decreases with age, and with it the self-healing powers. In addition, psychological factors can influence the intensity of the disease.

When stressed, going through crises or trauma , many patients experience a recurrence or intensification of atopy. In the course of his life, the patient learns to pay better attention to himself and his individual warning signals. This life experience is useful for him to achieve symptom relief. It is possible to react early and initiate countermeasures.


Because atopy is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, absolute prevention is not possible. However, those affected can control their symptoms by taking precautionary measures. This includes caring for the skin, e.g. he should not shower or bathe too often, too long and too hot, and the skin should also be protected from dryness.

You can do that yourself

The causes of atopy have not yet been fully researched, and the disease cannot be treated causally. However, those affected can identify the triggers for the allergic reaction and treat the symptoms.

If an allergy test by the doctor has not led to a result, patients should keep an atopy diary. In this way, they can find out whether the allergic flare-ups correlate with the consumption of certain foods or the performance of certain activities or occur more frequently in certain life situations (e.g. before or after exams).

Once the allergenic substance has been identified, it must be avoided as far as possible. If the allergic flare-ups occur particularly frequently in connection with psychological stress , relaxation techniques such as yoga or autogenic training can help those affected to remain more relaxed in exceptional situations.

Antihistamines can be helpful in treating the symptoms, especially if it is itchy skin eczema or hay fever . The preparations, which are available in pharmacies as creams, drops or tablets without a prescription , primarily relieve the severe itching. Reddened, inflamed or weeping areas of skin can also be treated with medicinal zinc ointment instead of cortisone , which must be applied two to three times a day.

Drugs containing pseudoephedrine help with allergic runny noses. In the case of allergic irritation of the eyes, vasoconstrictive eye drops or eyebright rinses can provide relief.

Lisa Newlon
 | Website

Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.