A scheme to raise awareness about the emotional and physical impact of the most common type of eczema has been launched by a leading charity and a global biopharmaceutical company this month.
Scratch Beneath the Surface is a public health initiative established by Sanofi in collaboration with Allergy UK. The scheme aims to improve people’s understanding of atopic dermatitis, from what’s happening inside the body, to the emotional and psychological symptoms that can lie beneath the surface.
The condition affects over 1.5 million people in the UK,1,2 and in a survey, 80% reported that it impacted on their mood, mental health and well-being.
By improving awareness of atopic dermatitis, which is the most common type of eczema3 the initiative aims “to shift any misconceptions among the general public and combat the stigma related to the disease, which will in turn, lead to those affected feeling a greater sense of support and understanding”, Sanofi said.
Commenting on the launch of the initiative, Carla Jones, Allergy UK’s chief executive said: “Atopic dermatitis is often dismissed as a simple skin condition or rash that can be soothed with moisturisers, but people don’t realise that it’s a long-term and potentially life-altering disease.”
“There is a huge sense of frustration amongst those affected, who feel that eczema and atopic dermatitis are often misunderstood. Even simple day-to-day tasks like walking up the stairs, bathing and getting dressed can be painful for someone experiencing a flare-up,” she said.
A UK-wide survey of people with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis4 found that the disease can impact every aspect of an individual’s life. Difficulty sleeping emerged as a significant problem, affecting 75% of those surveyed; with the constant itching and pain when trying to sleep, leaving people feeling tired and restless in the day.4
For some people, the impact of unpredictable flare-ups and feelings of self-consciousness can also lead to symptoms of anxiety or depression.4
Some 80% of survey participants reported that atopic dermatitis has a direct impact on their mood. In interviews, participants reported feeling anxious, especially in public and social settings, and feeling that they’re being looked at and judged by others.4
57% admitted they feel depressed because of their skin with some taking antidepressants to try and help the situation.4 And 60% of male participants and 55% of female participants noted that their self-esteem and self-confidence is frequently impacted due to their skin condition.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Anthony Bewley, consultant dermatologist at Whipps Cross University Hospital, and the Royal London Hospital, said: “Despite affecting over one and a half million adults in the UK, too few people understand the inflammatory and unpredictable nature of atopic dermatitis.
“For many people, it’s the unseen consequences, the emotional and psychological impact hiding beneath the surface that makes the disease most difficult to live with. Itchy skin is considered to be one of the worst symptoms; it can be physically debilitating.
“However, the associated restlessness, sleepless nights, and sore, broken skin can have a severe impact on a person’s daily functioning, mental health and self-esteem,” he said.
- Nutten S. Atopic Dermatitis: Global Epidemiology and Risk Factors. Ann Nutr Metab 2015;66 (suppl 1): 8-16.
- Office for National Statistics. 2014 UK mid-year population estimate. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationprojections/bulletins/nationalpopulationprojections/2015-10-29 (Accessed April 2018).
- NHS Choices. Atopic Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis). Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atopic-eczema/ (Accessed April 2018).
- Sanofi data on file, March 2018.