Specific Areas of Study on Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis research scientists suspect that changes in the skin's protective barrier make people with the condition more sensitive to irritants. People with the disorder tend to have lower levels of fatty acids (substances that provide moisture and elasticity) in their skin, which causes dryness and reduces the skin's ability to control inflammation.
Other research points to a possible defect in a type of white blood cell called a monocyte. Studies have found that monocytes appear to play a role in the decreased production of an immune system hormone called interferon gamma, which helps regulate allergic reactions. This defect may cause exaggerated immune and inflammatory responses in the blood and tissues of people with atopic dermatitis.
IgE is a type of antibody that controls the immune system's allergic response. An antibody is a protein produced by the immune system that recognizes and helps fight off viruses, bacteria, and other foreign substances that invade the body. Normally, IgE is present in very small amounts. However, in 80 to 90 percent of people with atopic dermatitis, IgE levels are quite high.
When an allergen comes into contact with IgE, the cells release various chemicals, including histamine. These chemicals cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:
- Runny eyes
However, the release of histamine and other chemicals alone cannot explain the typical long-term symptoms of atopic dermatitis. Researchers are still studying factors that may explain why too much IgE is produced and how it plays a role in atopic dermatitis.