When the skin constantly itches

Published on April 23, 2024

Neurodermatitis is one of the most common chronic diseases in children. But many adults are also affected. The disease is not curable. But there are many ways to live well with it. And it is not uncommon for the itchy skin to suddenly stop on its own.

The skin is dry and sensitive, reddens, flaky – and itches: a typical case of atopic dermatitis. The chronic skin disease is particularly common in children: 10 to 15 percent suffer from it. As many as 6 to 8 percent of adults are affected. Although neurodermatitis cannot be cured, the condition often disappears on its own with age. “Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to make any reliable predictions about who will and won’t be affected,” says Professor Peter Schmid, dermatologist and head of the Allergy Ward at the University Hospital Zurich. A long-term study is currently being conducted at the USZ to find the answer.

However, Schmid emphasizes that the course of the disease can be influenced very well. “With the right treatment, most of those affected lead a largely normal life.” In mild cases, skin care ointments are sufficient. For more severe forms of Neurodermatitis, there is a wide range of medications available today – including those with or without cortisone and in the form of tablets or injections. Light therapy can also help in some cases, as UV rays have an anti-inflammatory effect on the immune system, which helps to relieve itching.

New and effective therapies

Thanks to its proximity to research, the University Hospital Zurich is always able to offer innovative, tried-and-tested therapies. For example, the drug dupilumab, which has been approved for certain severe forms of neurodermatitis for a few months now. This is injected under the skin every two weeks and, according to USZ specialist Schmid, has proven to be a highly effective alternative. “It inhibits certain messenger substances very selectively and has a strong anti-inflammatory effect.” The only disadvantage is that the therapy is very expensive. In severe cases of neurodermatitis, however, health insurance companies will usually cover the costs, at least for a certain period of time, says Schmid.

The manifestations of neurodermatitis are very individual. The skin disease often occurs together with allergies, such as hay fever, allergic asthma to mites or food allergies. For this reason, it makes sense for those affected to undergo comprehensive clarification and individual treatment. At the Allergy Ward of the USZ, they can undergo blood and skin tests for a total of around 250 allergies – over 120 of them at the same time. There is also a weekly special consultation on neurodermatitis at the Department of Dermatology at the USZ. Anyone interested should be referred by their family doctor. Together with the aha! allergy center Switzerland, the USZ also offers free advice on skin care from a skin care expert and also holds regular training courses for parents of patients.


Peter Schmid-Grendelmeier, Prof. Dr. med.
Head of Allergy Ward and Neurodermatitis

E-mail office:

Peter Schmid, Prof. Dr. med.

Senior Attending Physician, Department of Dermatology

Tel. +41 44 255 30 79
Specialties: Allergies of all kinds incl. Neurodermatitis and hives , Tropical and travel dermatology, Mastocytosis and histamine-mediated diseases

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