Johannesburg – Atopic eczema is more than just a disease; it’s an emotional and physical roller-coaster for those affected and their loved ones.
The key effects of the disease include extreme physical pain and itch, as well as a burden on families and caregivers, finances, mental health, and everyday life.
What is atopic eczema?
Atopic eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis (AD), isn’t just another skin condition. It’s a relentless battle faced by countless people across the globe.
One of the most common forms of eczema, its unpredictable flare-ups stem largely from an overactive immune system that weakens the skin’s natural barrier.
This isn’t merely a rash; it’s a chronic, inflammatory disease that demands attention.
The inflamed skin and intense itching caused by moderate-to-severe atopic eczema can pop up anywhere.
The knees, elbows, face, neck, feet, hands, and wrists are most commonly affected.
Everyone’s experience varies – from mild to severe – and there’s a range of treatments available to help sufferers.
“Living with atopic eczema takes a toll on daily life, relationships, sleep, and even work or school. And it doesn’t just affect the person – families feel the strain too,” said Dr. Nurdan Bulur, Sanofi Country Medical Lead.
“Over time, the effects become cumulative and the impact on the person’s life is substantial.”
“Apart from the visible effects of the disease, the itch that patients experience can be debilitating,” said Dr. Bulur.
“It’s linked to other symptoms, including sleep loss (for parents and partners as well), anxiety, depression, feelings of isolation and helplessness – all of which have an impact on work/school productivity.”
The psychosocial impact on children and adolescents
The psychosocial burden experienced by adolescents and the impact on their mental health can be severe.
Recent studies suggest that children and adolescents with atopic eczema may be affected by a range of mental health disorders, including depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, conduct disorder, autism, sleep and thinking problems, psychosomatic symptoms and even suicidal thoughts.
“That’s why this disease requires an in-depth understanding and consideration of appropriate treatment strategies,” says Dr. Bulur.
“The aim is to achieve long-term control and improve quality of life.”
How does one manage atopic eczema?
Gentle skincare and the frequent application of moisturisers are very important, especially in milder cases.
With more severe eczema, dermatologists may prescribe topical creams, which have rapid, localised anti-inflammatory effects.
This calms the flare-ups and helps break the itch-scratch cycle. Phototherapy or systemic medicine are the next steps when topical treatments are not effective.
Biologic therapy is an option for adults with moderate-to-severe atopic eczema when topical steroids are not working, Biologics are innovative, targeted medicines that specifically block the immunological drivers of the inflammation.
“Together with the Allergy Foundation South Africa (AFSA), the Atopic Eczema Support Group and Sanofi, a study has been embarked to better understand the adult burden of disease in South Africa by launching the SA-AWARE study,” said Dr. Bulur.
For further details, visit The Atopic Eczema Support Group South Africa on Facebook or visit @saeczemasupport on Instagram.
If you or someone you know has any symptoms of atopic eczema, speak to your doctor or healthcare provider.