Man scratching atopic dermatitis on arm

What Is Atopic Dermatitis? Symptoms, Causes And Treatment


Sometimes, people just really don’t get it. 

Eczema? I thought that was only for children. Can’t you just stop scratching?”

NEWSFLASH - eczema is just as real for adults as it is for children and NO, I can’t just “stop” scratching. (Apologies for all the capitals). 

If this resonates, chances are you suffer from atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema. And it’s in no way a happy addition to your life. 

The itch, the dry skin, the strain on your mental health - it’s tough. And some days are worse than others. 

But hey, we can’t just sit here and let eczema win now, can we? 

In this article, you’ll find: 

1. What is atopic dermatitis?

2. Symptoms

3. Common triggers

4. Treatment tips

5. Final word 

So, what is atopic dermatitis? 

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic condition where the skin becomes itchy, dry and inflamed. Especially prevalent in children (roughly 20% suffer from AD in the UK), it can also appear for adults later on in life. 

Often the terms atopic dermatitis and eczema are interchanged, however the latter actually refers to a group of conditions that AD falls under. 

In people with atopic dermatitis, the immune system becomes overactive. This triggers inflammation which in turn can damage the skin barrier, leaving it dry, itchy and prone to rashes forming. 

This makes it far more difficult for a person to maintain healthy levels of moisture in their skin, and leaves them vulnerable to irritants in their close environment. 

Overall it’s believed that AD is down to a complex interaction of genetic factors and environmental triggers, that often occurs in people with ‘atopic tendencies’. 

This means they might develop any 3 of the closely linked allergic conditions: atopic dermatitis, hay fever or asthma. Commonly, such conditions will run in the family and looking at siblings or parents can be a useful indicator for doctors when diagnosing AD. 


Lots of stuff you’re probably already too familiar with, but let’s just get everyone on the same page. 

- Rashes in the crease of the elbows or knees and around the eyes or neck

- Discolouring of the skin

- Thick, leathery skin caused by repeated scratching (called lichenification)

- Extremeness dryness, with possible scaling 

- Intense itch (85% of people diagnosed with AD report suffering from this everyday)

- Oozing, weeping or infected skin 

Common triggers

The exact cause of AD is unknown (as frustrating as that is to hear). 

A weakened skin barrier is believed to play a part, making your skin more susceptible to external and internal irritants or “triggers”. 

It’s important to note that when trying to understand your own eczema journey, there’s no one size fits all solution. So even though dust and dairy to you might cause severe allergic reactions, they might be irrelevant to Bob next door who shares the same condition. 

Having said that, there are generic triggers you should be aware of that might be responsible for your flare ups

In no particular order: 

- Cold or dry weather

- Sweating

- Allergens - pollen, pet dander or dust

- Food - gluten, sugar or dairy (plus many more)

- Stress

- Certain materials - nickel or gold

- Scented products 

And just about anything else you can think of! Essentially, if you come into contact with something in your daily life, it has the potential to be an irritant to your skin. 

Top home treatment tips

1. Stop the itch and nourish dry skin

We get it, you’ve tried this before, like a gazillion times. But luckily, our very own Mugwort Mist might just be what you’ve been missing! 

Inspired by Chinese Herbal Medicine, our natural formula contains a unique blend of traditional herbs used for 1000’s of years to treat eczema-prone skin. Anti-itch and deeply nourishing for those tricky dry patches, it works to fight back the symptoms of a flare up. 

And the best bit? It’s steroid, paraben and sulphate free :) 

2. Identify your triggers

SO important if you hope to get a grip on your symptoms and prevent future flare ups. You must, as hard it is to find out, understand what triggers your skin. 

If you can get an appointment with a dermatologist, fantastic. Hopefully they’ll refer you on to get a patch test and you’ve made a step in the right direction. If this isn’t feasible, elimination diets are another good place to start. 

3. Moisturise! 

You remember how we mentioned AD sufferers likely have a damaged skin barrier? Well moisturising helps to counteract this. By forming a thick, greasy layer over the skin, it can help in your battle to ward off irritants. 

You must prioritise doing this at least twice a day, especially when you’re just out of the shower! 

4. Relax and de-stress

An often overlooked factor when it comes to eczema, stress can play a prominent role in flare ups and the overall health and appearance of your skin. 

Simply, when you’re stressed or anxious, your body releases a number of hormones which can lead to inflammation. This can then have a knock on effect onto your skin, exacerbating eczema symptoms you may already be experiencing. 

With this in mind, it’s crucial you prioritise your own mental health and emotional wellbeing. We’re big advocates for meditation and mindfulness, having seen the positive impact it’s had in our own lives. 

Jump over to our social channels @yanyeeskincare to find out more. 

5. Eat healthy, drink plenty of water and get your 8 hours 

To give your body the best chance possible of fighting AD, you need your immune system in tip top condition. For that, you must focus on living a healthy, balanced lifestyle where you’re conscious of how you treat your body. 

So maintain a healthy diet, hydrate regularly and make sure you get enough sleep. Your future self will be most grateful. 

6. Be consistent and stay positive! 

So important, and so often ignored. This whole eczema thing? It’s a marathon, not a sprint. So keep building days of happiness and success and eventually, you’ll see your skin (and your life) change for the better. 

Final word

We did it! Atopic dermatitis sliced, diced and served on a platter. 

What have we missed? Jump over to our Twitter page and let us know! 

With care, 

The yan-yee team


- Should you try an elimination diet to determine the root cause of eczema? (2019). Link

- Skin infection: Types, causes and treatment. (2019). Link

- Allergies. (2018). Link

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.