Inside out vs. Outside in – how do dust mites give people with dermatitis the itch?

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This week we came across an interesting article about the link between dust mites and dermatitis, which we want to share with you.

Dust mites are a well-known cause of year-round allergies including eczema, a skin condition characterised by red, itchy skin. However, for the past decade, researchers have been wondering exactly what causes the itch in the first place: is it a problem with the body’s immune system (‘inside out’), or a problem with the body’s skin barrier function (‘outside in’)?

As it turns out, it’s a little bit of both. Let us explain …


The ‘inside out’ theory

Dust mites are generally harmless to humans, so the idea here is that people suffering from dermatitis have a problem with their immune system overreacting to normal things.

To test this theory, researchers from the University of Oxford looked at CD1 molecules, skin proteins that present foreign matter to the immune system to be fought off.

Interestingly, the study found that:

  • CD1 molecules can trigger an immune response when faced with ‘extract of house dust mite’ or (to put it candidly) dust mite poo
  • People with dermatitis have significantly higher levels of CD1 molecules in their skin and blood
  • CD1 molecules react to a protein called phospholipase A2, an enzyme that dust mites produce to help break down skin cells into fat molecules that they can digest.

The findings of this study do indicate that people with dust mite allergies have a problem with their immune system. But that’s not the only issue at play here …


The ‘outside in’ theory

Over the years, researchers have also hypothesised that people with dermatitis have a problem with the barrier function in their skin. And, as it happens, this is also true.
According to a study published in Natures Genetics[1], filaggrin, a protein that acts as a skin barrier by keeping it moisturized and reducing inflammation, lowers the body’s immune response to dust mites. It’s estimated that approximately 20 to 30 per cent of people with dermatitis are deficient in filaggrin, which means that their skin is permeable and much more vulnerable to inflammation.

So there you have it, the link between dust mites and dermatitis doesn’t come down to “inside out” or “outside in”, the two go hand in hand. You can read the full article by clicking here.


What can you do to stop dust mites giving you the itch?

dust-mites-1At Health and Wellness Australia (HWA) we use a technique called muscle testing or kinesiology, to find out whether dust mites may be contributing to your symptoms. Following testing, you can work with your practitioner to address your reaction to dust mites using a natural allergy treatment called Positive Association Technique (PAT).

PAT is a non-invasive holistic therapy, which:

  • draws on acupressure and kinesiology techniques
  • aims to re-train your body
  • may reduce your reactions to dust mites, which may be causing or exacerbating your skin condition.

Some dermatitis cases can be complex, so our naturopaths may also recommend supplements, herbs and lifestyle advice to help you achieve the best long-term results.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information only. PAT cannot cure dermatitis. It is intended to decrease your reactions and help you manage dermatitis-related symptoms. It is not intended to raise unrealistic expectations. If symptoms persist, consult your GP.

[1]Natures Genetics. Common loss-of-function variants of the epidermal barrier protein filaggrin are a major predisposing factor for atopic dermatitis.

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