Can Atopic Dermatitis be life changing?
Imagine waking up and thinking to yourself ‘what will I look like today?’ The unknown of waking up with either red blotches on your face or clear soft skin because you didn’t know what to
Imagine waking up and thinking to yourself ‘what will I look like today?’ The unknown of waking up with either red blotches on your face or clear soft skin because you didn’t know what to expect each morning.
For everyone else, the normal stress is revising for an exam but yours is questioning whether you will wake up with blotchy skin. Or asking yourself ‘I wonder who’ll ask me what happened to my face today?’
For those who suffer from Atopic Dermatitis this is routine of thoughts is their ‘normal’ but for those who are unaware of what Atopic Dermatitis is, it’s the most common form of eczema, a condition which causes the skin to become dry, itchy and cracked and is a chronic condition that can come and go for years or throughout life. It is often noticed first in infants before the age of 5 and either goes away with time or progressively gets worse as the child becomes older.
In people with Atopic Dermatitis the immune system becomes disordered and overactive and although scientists are yet to discover what exactly causes this, they found that this overactive immune system triggers inflammation that damages the skin barrier, leaving it dry and prone to itching and rashes that may appear red, purple or brown in darker skin tones and red in lighter skin tones.
What are the impacts it can have?
In the increasingly visual society that we call our world, the pressure imposed on both men and women to have perfect, flawless skin increases tremendously every day for people of all ages and as these unrealistic expectations continue to arise, fewer people are ceasing to realise the harsh reality for those who suffer from Atopic Dermatitis. The link between skin and mental health is so profound that a whole field of scientific interest, called psycho-dermatology, exists as an attempt to understand the problem that people commonly face.
According to a survey, nine in ten dermatologists don’t think enough importance is placed on the psychological effects of skin conditions. Some mental health illnesses such as OCD, anxiety and depression can all intertwine with chronic skin conditions such as Atopic Dermatitis, either as a by-product or even as the catalyst for one.
This is supported by the statistic that 50 percent of adults with eczema have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression in the last 12 months, or have shown symptoms according to new research in the British Journal of Dermatology.
People often experience anxiety and fearful anticipations when interacting with others in a social space or even in an intimate and private space. When symptoms are visibly present it may change how patients see themselves and how they perceive their future as a result of a low self esteem . Having Atopic Dermatitis can make people feel as though they are being analysed or being looked down upon because of their condition and the never-ending fear that they can have for social interaction can even prevent them from taking part in social activities.
There are physical impacts that go alongside having Atopic Dermatitis such as the drastic effects it can have to someone’s physical appearance depending on where it is on someone’s body whether it is on their face, neck, body or hands. It can involve having Inflamed, itchy rashes on the surface of the skin and is frequently complicated by skin breakdown and bacterial, viral and fungal infections because of the similarity between the appearance of them all.
Any level of eczema can be extremely uncomfortable and, at times, painful. Individuals with moderate to severe disease report that it hugely disturbs their sleep and affects their performance of daily activities, including school, sports activities, work and peer relationships. Patients typically describe it as constantly suffering from 1000 paper cuts on their skin and has been found to have a similar impact on health-related quality of life as other common childhood conditions such as asthma and diabetes.
Eczema impacts quality of life by causing itching, sleep loss and social stigma for the child. Families may also suffer from sleep loss and time taken off work to accompany children to health appointments. The condition is associated with atopy so children with the condition are more likely to develop asthma and allergic rhinitis.
Furthermore financial impacts can also take a toll on eczema patients because by looking at a broader age range, the UK total annual cost was estimated to be around £465 million, of which £125 million were National Health Service costs, £297 million costs incurred by patients and £42 million by society in terms of lost productivity (price year not reported) whereas the total annual UK cost of eczema in children aged 5 years or younger was estimated as £47 million (£80 per child).
The staggering 50% of adults with Atopic Dermatitis who suffer from anxiety or depression will most likely conclude that the condition has affected their life drastically, yet no one seems to openly link mental health to skin conditions despite mental health awareness continuing to rise – and this needs to change.
Together as a community we can set up support groups inside and outside schools, educate each other, join forums where stories can be shared because even just knowing that you are not alone may make a bigger difference than you think.