With vast information resources and effective treatment options, people with eczema no longer need to suffer in silence.
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that’s related to eczema. Symptoms include intense itching, dry scaly skin, and a rash on the face, hands, arms, legs, and other parts of the body.1 People living with AD may experience many recurring or new patches of eczema, known as flare-ups.2
While the exact cause of AD is unknown, it does involve the immune system and genetics, and environmental factors are believed to play a role.3 According to the Canadian Dermatology Association, estimates are that 17 per cent of Canadians will suffer from AD at some point in their lives.4 AD tends to develop in early childhood, and while some people go into remission, up to 30 per cent have flare-ups for life or have a disease that requires care from a specialist.5
Symptoms and stigma make disease burdensome
Living with AD is challenging. Aside from the pain, discomfort, and activity limitations imposed by the symptoms, there can be stigma, shame, and embarrassment. Ben Wong, 36, knows this only too well.
Diagnosed at age five, Wong’s condition progressively worsened through adulthood, culminating with an intense and extremely painful flare-up when he had his first child. “When I took a shower, it felt like knives were being stabbed into the back of my neck, and when I laid down, I could feel my skin stretch and the cuts opening up with every move,” he says.
Aside from the physical symptoms, Wong had to deal with the embarrassment and stress of constantly trying to hide his disease on the job. “There would be literally piles of dead skin on my desk from scratching, and I’m sure people thought I was weird,” he says. Similarly, at home, he would have to deal with the inconvenience of changing his bedsheets and pillow coverings every two days. “You also have to be cognizant of the type of clothing you can wear, the types of activities you can participate in, and that you may have to pull out of social engagements because of a flare-up, so these are issues we face that the public isn’t aware of,” he says.
Helpful resources and effective treatments available
Fortunately, Wong’s AD is now under control. After his last debilitating flare-up lead to an ER visit, he decided to take matters into his own hands. “I realized I needed some serious help, so I insisted on a referral to a dermatologist,” says Wong.
Since then, Wong has also turned to numerous online resources for information and support, one of which he helped to create called Let’s Talk Eczema. “I find it extremely helpful, not only for myself, but as a resource to inform caregivers and the general public on what AD is, how severe it can be, and how it affects a person’s life,” says Wong.
As Wong discovered, there are effective treatment options available. His advice to others with AD or eczema is to empower themselves by seeking information on these treatment options, refusing to take no for an answer, and pushing to see a specialist who understands what they’re going through.
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1 “About Eczema.” The Eczema Society of Canada, April 27, 2021. https://www.eczemahelp.ca/about-eczema/.
4 “Eczema.” Canadian Dermatology Association, November 25, 2018. https://dermatology.ca/public-patients/skin/eczema/.
5 Kapur, S., Watson, W. & Carr, S. Atopic dermatitis. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol 14 (Suppl 2), 52 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13223-018-0281-6