Overview of typical symptoms of neurodermatitis
There are a variety of symptoms of neurodermatitis, the following are typical: dry and scaly skin itching reddening of the skin swelling crusts weeping skin lesions eczema (inflamed skin) pustules and nodules blisters thickening of the skin (lichenification) changes in the colour of the skin
- Dry and flaky skin
- Skin redness
- Crust formation
- Weeping skin areas
- Skin changes
- Eczema (inflamed skin areas)
- Pustules and nodules
- Thickening of the skin (lichenification)
- Spotty change of skin colour
Itching (pruritus) is considered the leading symptom of neurodermatitis. In neurodermatitis, the skin becomes dry and flaky, and the itching develops as a result. Even the slightest irritation of the skin can trigger the itching, for example wearing wool sweaters, sweating or various environmental factors.
But also the consumption of certain foods (e.g. histamine-rich foods such as fish, cheese or tomatoes, but also citrus fruits and nuts) or emotional factors influence the development of itching. The itching attacks can sometimes be very intense and distressing for the person affected. Especially in the evening or at night the itching can increase extremely and often leads to sleep disorders.
Many neurodermatitis patients try to relieve the itching by scratching. In the short term this helps very well and brings relaxation to the affected persons, but in the long term the scratching is an additional strain on the skin and the itching increases even more. Scratching causes the skin of the neurodermatitis patient to change and turn white.
Healthy skin, on the other hand, turns red due to scratching. The best way to combat the annoying itching is to use appropriate skin care products. With the right moisturising care, the skin is protected from drying out and the itching subsides.
The doctor or a pharmacist will give you information about which creams or ointments are best suited for neurodermatitis. Due to the abnormal immune reactions in the body, neurodermatitis leads to inflammatory skin changes. As a result, the natural protective function of the skin is lost, there is increased water loss and reduced sebum production.
Eczema is an inflammatory skin change characterized by scaly skin, redness and weeping skin crusts. Swelling and small blisters are also common in eczema. Due to the occurrence of numerous eczemas (inflammatory skin changes), neurodermatitis is also called atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis in medical terminology.
Atopic means that the body reacts more strongly to certain stimuli with allergic reactions. The skin is very dry at the affected areas and can itch very much. Where eczema occurs preferentially on the body in the context of neurodermatitis depends mainly on the age of the patient.
In babies and small children, eczema forms on the forehead, chin, cheeks and around the mouth. Later, the skin changes mostly affect the extensor sides of the arms and legs. In adults, the elbows, knees and wrists are often affected.
However, inflammatory changes of the skin can also occur on the neck and chest area, as well as on the terminal limbs (fingers and toes). Very dry skin is a typical symptom in patients with neurodermatitis. Due to the chronic inflammatory reaction, the skin loses its natural moisture barrier and dries out.
This causes the affected skin areas to crack, flake and itch. Scratching further irritates the sensitive skin and intensifies the drying process. In the meantime, there are a large number of medical skin care products that help specifically against dry skin in the case of neurodermatitis.
Used regularly, they have a soothing and moisturising effect on damaged skin. Some neurodermatitis patients suffer from an extensive thickening of the skin. This process is called lichenification.
The thickened skin areas develop as a result of irritation caused by inflamed eczema. The skin becomes thicker, coarser, “leathery” and loses elasticity. Hyper- or hypopigmentation can also occur, which means that the affected skin areas become either darker or lighter.
Frequently the skin of the face is affected by lichenification. But also the bends of the elbows, the back of the knees or the wrists tend to thicken. Besides eczema and extensive thickening, papules or small nodules on the skin are further symptoms of neurodermatitis.
Scratching or rubbing the skin leads to the increased formation of these skin changes. Older adults in particular suffer more frequently from a certain form of neurodermatitis, the so-called prurigo form (lat. prurigo = itching).
This special form of neurodermatitis is characterised by small, very itchy nodules which can appear all over the body. Psychological problems can have a significant influence on the symptoms of neurodermatitis or contribute to the disease breaking out in the first place. If patients suffer from severe stress, anxiety, sadness, depression or other psychological problems, the symptoms associated with neurodermatitis can worsen considerably.
This is because there is a close connection between the skin and the human psyche. Conversely, neurodermatitis can also cause psychological problems. Due to the skin changes, the affected persons may suffer from their appearance.
They are insecure and often feel unattractive. The tormenting itching is another factor that burdens the sufferers and can lead to insomnia or mood swings. Ignorant fellow men are often afraid that they could be infected by the skin changes and avoid contact.
Under these conditions, patients may isolate themselves and become depressed. Of course this does not mean that every neurodermatitis sufferer suffers from psychological problems. Nevertheless, this close connection between mental disorders and neurodermatitis must not be neglected.
Patients should not hesitate to point out this problem to their doctor if necessary and to work out a suitable therapy concept together. In the case of neurodermatitis, inflammatory processes lead to a deterioration of the protective function of the skin. Lipid and moisture normally provide a reliable barrier against pathogens, but in case of neurodermatitis the skin dries out and becomes more permeable.
Through the damaged skin layers, disease-causing germs such as bacteria, fungi or viruses can easily penetrate and lead to infections of the skin. This type of infection, which can be traced back to an already existing inflammation, is known as a so-called secondary or superinfection. Often the skin infections are caused by bacteria of the genus Staphylococcus.
This is a type of bacteria that typically lives on the skin in humans and does not normally cause disease. In neurodermatitis, however, the germs penetrate the skin through the disturbed barrier function and lead to inflammatory skin changes and itching. Particularly at risk from an infection can be skin regions in which many bacteria are naturally found.
This is for example the case in the genital area, which can also be affected by neurodermatitis. The skin of neurodermatitis patients is much more susceptible to the penetration of pathogens than the skin of healthy people. In addition to bacteria, fungi (mostly yeast fungi) in particular very often cause infections.
Normally, fungal spores cannot penetrate far into healthy skin and are harmless. In neurodermatitis, the fungus uses eczema (itching) and small skin lesions as entry points, penetrates deep into the skin layers and promotes inflammation of the skin. As a result of the fungal infestation, the classic symptoms of neurodermatitis – itching, redness and scaling of the skin – increase even further. The dermatologist can diagnose a fungal infection on the basis of a smear of the skin and treat it with appropriate creams. As dry skin is one of the main risk factors for fungal infections, patients can prevent a fungal infection by taking good skin care with moisturizing lotions.