Understand AD – Let’s Talk about Atopic Dermatitis!
“Disclosure: This is a sponsored post by Sanofi Genzyme and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. as part of a paid program. All opinions are my own.”
Growing up, I had eczema, although I didn’t know it was atopic dermatitis until later in life when I was diagnosed by my doctor. It mostly started in the crook of my elbows and behind my knees. It was so severe for me that I wanted to scratch the skin off my body, but scratching only made it worse.
Through my teen years, it lessened, and I thought I was finally outgrowing it, only to find out that once I was in my 20’s, my atopic dermatitis flared up all over again. This time, though, it wasn’t confined to my knees and elbows. It was in so many more spots, including my arms and hands, and was much worse. The rash would get so bad on my hands that I was embarrassed to show them, and it was incredibly itchy. Looking back after having worked in a restaurant for 30 years, I’m sure all the hand washing didn’t help me either because it made my skin even drier.
Even more frustrating than the physical symptoms were the feelings of embarrassment and sadness about how my skin looked. When I was a waitress and experiencing a flare-up, people, including customers and coworkers, would see the rashes on my hands daily. I felt like customers looked at me differently. Maybe it was because they didn’t want to have someone who had scaling, red hands serving them food. They may have thought that what I had on my hands was contagious. I often felt that because of the rash on my hands, customers would tip differently. Because of all of these challenges, I do feel that my professional life has been negatively impacted by this disease. I wish I could just explain to customers about my skin disease and that it is not contagious!
In addition to my career, atopic dermatitis has affected other areas of my life, both physically and emotionally. When it comes to sleep, it doesn’t come very easily thanks to my itching. I tend to scratch a lot more at night, which in turn leads to many sleepless nights. Atopic dermatitis has been a vicious cycle for me!
Emotionally, I have become depressed due to this disease. It feels impossible to cover the red rashes on my hands, inside my elbows and on my arms, especially when it’s incredibly hot outside (think 95 degree weather!). Because of my symptoms, I have declined invitations and just stayed home because I was embarrassed. The last thing I wanted to do was to go out on a date. This has led to me to feel very depressed sitting at home all alone.
Because of my personal experience with the disease, I’m excited about a new campaign called Understand AD. The campaign is focused on educating people about moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis and raising awareness about the physical and quality of life impact of the disease. Atopic dermatitis is characterized by unpredictable flare-ups triggered in part by a malfunction in the immune system.¹,²,³,⁴ The immune connection resonated for me because I also have Crohn’s Disease, another immune disorder. Symptoms of atopic dermatitis can include red rashes, intense itch, dryness, cracking, crusting and oozing of the skin, and they can occur on any part of the body.⁵ In addition to chronic physical symptoms, people with atopic dermatitis also report stress, embarrassment, self-consciousness and anxiety, which can lead them to avoid social situations and can contribute to difficulties with relationships and intimacy.⁶,⁷,⁸
As part of the campaign, celebrity chef Elizabeth Falkner (Food Network, Bravo’s Top Chef), who suffers from atopic dermatitis, shares her story to help increase awareness of the disease. I encourage you to visit www.UnderstandAD.com to learn more about Elizabeth’s experience, hear from other people living with the disease, learn more about moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis and get connected with advocates such as the National Eczema Association and Dermatology Nurses’ Association.
Atopic dermatitis doesn’t discriminate. An estimated 1.6 million adults in the United States are living with uncontrolled moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis.⁹ And now, with the Understand AD campaign, hopefully more people will learn about this disease.
I received compensation to write this post. Regardless, all opinions expressed are still 100% my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, Mary Walker Disclosure.
¹ National Institutes of Health (NIH). Handout on Health: Atopic Dermatitis (A type of eczema) May 2013. Available online: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Atopic_Dermatitis/default.asp. Accessed: September 22, 2016.
² Gittler JK, et al. Progressive activation of TH2/TH22 cytokines and selective epidermal proteins characterizes acute and chronic atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012; 130:6. 1345-1354.
³ Leung DYM, Boguniewicz M, Howell MD, Nomura I, Hamid QA. New insights into atopic dermatitis. J Clin Invest. 2004;113:651
⁴ Lebwohl MG, Del Rosso JQ, Abramovits W, et al. Pathways to managing atopic dermatitis: consensus from the experts. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2013;6(7 Suppl):S2-S18
⁵ http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/atopic-dermatitis#risk Accessed: September 22, 2016.
⁶ Misery L, Finlay AY, Martin N, et al. Atopic dermatitis: impact on the quality of life of patients and their partners. Dermatology. 2007;215:123-129.
⁷ Zuberbier T, Orlow SJ, Paller AS, et al. Patient perspectives on the management of atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006;118:226-232.
⁸ Eichenfield LF, Tom WL, Chamlin SL, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of atopic dermatitis. Section 1. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014;70:338-51.
⁹ Adelphi Final Report, data on file
US-ILF-13553 | US.DUP.16.10.044