What are Atopy and Atopic Conditions?

What is atopy?

Atopy refers to a particular type of allergy. Atopy is not a single disorder, but rather a description of a number of disorders. Your immune system reacts too strongly to triggers that can lead to atopic conditions.

Experts estimate that between 10-30% of those living in countries with higher incomes are affected by atopy.

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Although different atopic conditions may have different symptoms and triggers, they share many of the same immune mechanisms. These conditions are known as type I hypersensitivity disorder.

Atopic conditions are not uncommon. Atopic conditions are most commonly diagnosed as:

  • Allergy Asthma
  • Allergy rhinitis
  • atopic dermatitis
  • Allergy conjunctivitis
  • Food allergies

What happens during an atopy

Antigens and antibodies are key to understanding atopy.Antigens can be foreign substances that trigger an immune reaction. These substances can range from mold spores and pollen to metals, pollen and pet dander.

Your immune system creates antibodies, also known as immunoglobulins. Your body is able to distinguish between different antigens and can create antibodies that are specific for each one. Your atopic condition may be caused by one type of antigen, but not the other.

What causes atopy

Although the exact cause of atopy is unknown, evidence strongly suggests that it may be genetic. Atopy has been studied in both twins and families as well as in animals. It is inherited genes that can increase your risk of developing too much IgE. Experts believe multiple genes work together to create these conditions, rather than one gene. External substances can also trigger atopy, so environmental factors are important.

According to the hygiene hypothesis, atopic conditions can be caused by insufficient exposure to antigens during childhood. This hypothesis aims to explain why atopic conditions have increased in frequency with increasing hygiene standards over the past 100 years. This idea is still not confirmed and requires further research.

What are the most common atopic conditions?

Many atopic conditions exist. We’ll be focusing on the most common. There are many more.


Asthma affects your lungs. It is very common in children. It can be as simple as:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • chest tightness
  • Trouble breathing

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Allergy is a type of asthma. This is an atopic condition. Your symptoms are caused when your body produces too many IgE to respond to a trigger. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergic asthma is responsible for approximately 60% of all cases of asthma.

Allergy rhinitis

Atopic hay fever is sometimes known as allergygenic rhinitis. It mostly affects the nose and sinuses. Symptoms include:

  • stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • postnasal drip
  • Nasal pruritis (itching).

Allergenic rhinitis may be either chronic or seasonal. As many as one in six people are affected by it.


Atopic dermatitis can be described as eczema. This is an atopic condition that can affect your skin.

  • Dry skin
  • Itching
  • Flaking
  • redness

Atopic dermatitis can affect between 2-10% of adults and 10-30% of children.

Allergy conjunctivitis

Allergy conjunctivitis can affect your eyes. It is usually seasonal and usually includes:

  • Red eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Watery eyes

Although allergic conjunctivitis is thought to affect 10-30% of people, most people don’t seek treatment.

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What are the atopic triggers?

Different people may have different triggers. One trigger might be enough for you, but there might be several.

These are some common triggers:

  • Pathogens such as bacteria and viruses
  • Toxins, such as bee venom and insect bites
  • Pollen and animal dander are examples of environmental particles.
  • Foods such as eggs, peanuts, and milk.
  • Pollutants, such as tobacco smoke

Knowing your triggers and trying to avoid them is one of the most important aspects of treating atopy.

What is the difference between allergies and atopy?

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  • Atopy refers to an allergy that causes IgE production. There are many possible allergies and they may involve other mechanisms than IgE.
  • All atopic conditions can be considered allergic, but not all allergies are atopic.
  • As a group, allergies are the most common disorder among humans.