Atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most common allergic inflammatory skin disease. Interactions of genetic, environmental and immunological factors result in the initiation and progress of AD. Although the clinical picture, characterized by acute flare-ups of eczematous, pruritic lesions on dry skin at typical predilection such as the flexural folds, is quite homogenous, the trigger factors of the disease are diverse and the pathophysiologic network involved is complex. Therefore, first attempts have been made to classify subtypes of AD based on the most relevant causal factors in the individual patient. To optimize such a stratification of patients, detailed knowledge about cofactors impacting on manifestation of AD as well as impairment of the course of the disease is indispensable. AD shares general features of barrier dysfunction and skin inflammation with other inflammatory diseases of the skin such as psoriasis or allergic contact dermatitis, but a plethora of disease-specific genetic, immunologic and environmental factors have been identified in AD as well. It is the purpose of this review to illustrate key concepts of the pathogenesis of AD. Important findings of recent years will be summarized and cofactors of the pathogenesis will be controversially discussed. We will summarize knowledge on pathogenic factors on the immunologic level contributing to skin barrier dysfunction in AD and the role of the microbiome as first line of defence. Furthermore, we will elucidate the role of innate lymphoid cells in AD and outline the pattern of T helper cell subtypes present in the skin during different stages of AD.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.