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New Hope for Adolescents with Atopic Dermatitis

Tanya Mohan and family
Tanya Mohan and family
Tanya Mohan, pictured with her family, has dealt with the complications of atopic dermatitis since age 1.

For some Canadians, the first snowflakes of winter are a welcome sight. But colder temperatures and drier air mean more flare-ups for the estimated 17% of people in this country living with atopic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin disease affecting people of all ages, especially children and adolescents. It’s the most common form of eczema, marked by redness and itching.

Atopic dermatitis can have serious consequences. A survey conducted by the Eczema Society of Canada found that among those with moderate to severe forms of the disease, 87% said it negatively impacted their daily lives.

Removing the stigma

The social stigma makes coping more difficult. “I hear patients say that people don’t understand what they’re dealing with,” says Dr. Sam Hanna, a Toronto dermatologist and the Medical Director of Dermatology on Bloor. “They talk about how others have hesitated to shake their hands or how a cashier cringed when taking their money.” 

Tanya Mohan with her daughter

Tanya Mohan, a Toronto-based mother and project manager working in the health field, has dealt with the complications of atopic dermatitis since age 1. “I’m always feeling itchy,” she says. “It makes it difficult to sleep. I’ve scratched until I bled. Then I feel guilty, sad, and angry at myself. It’s psychological warfare that doesn’t stop.” 

The recent introduction of biologic medicines into the market offers new hope to patients. These medications on the immune system by blocking the action of certain proteins to reduce itching and improve the condition of the skin. “It’s a more targeted approach that can lead to huge changes in patients who have lived with atopic dermatitis for decades,” says Dr. Hanna.

If this type of treatment had existed when patients like Mohan were teens, it could have provided relief. “Adolescence is a challenging time for anyone,” says Dr. Hanna. “The addition of a chronic, itchy skin disease that interferes with sleep can really play havoc with school performance and socialization.”

As an adult, Mohan is able to achieve good results with biologic therapy medicine. She noticed her skin seemed to transform overnight and experienced true relief for the first time.

The changing therapeutic landscape is welcome news to these vulnerable patients.

Dr. Sam Hanna, Dermatologist

New hope for adolescents 

Traditional therapies are of limited efficacy or have side-effect concerns that limit their ability to help adolescents with severe atopic dermatitis. Now, with the changing therapeutic landscape, adolescents may be able to benefit from biologic treatments that were previously only available for adults. “The changing therapeutic landscape is welcome news to these vulnerable patients,” Dr. Hanna says.

Parents who have teenagers with atopic dermatitis may be able to find solace in such treatment advancements. With the ever-changing treatment landscape, it’s important for parents to keep an open dialogue with their child’s health care provider to ensure they’re getting the best option for their condition. There’s no need to suffer at any age. 

This article was made possible with support from a Canadian research-based pharmaceutical company.

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