Dubai: Living with persistent itching and reoccurring rashes is a life-long struggle for many eczema patients. To raise awareness and educate the UAE community, Dr Anwar Al Hammadi, Consultant Dermatologist and President of the Emirates Dermatology Society, has launched the first #LivingWithEczema nationwide campaign, it was announced on Monday.
Atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, is one of the most common skin conditions in the UAE, with around 15 per cent of all patients visiting dermatologists in public hospitals and clinics suffering from the condition.
The chronic condition, which is an immune-mediated disease, is systemic and visible on the skin. In moderate-to-severe cases, its symptoms can include an intense, relentless itch, skin dryness, cracking, redness, crusting and oozing.
In its early stages, the campaign has created a network that is being supported by Sanofi, a global biopharmaceutical company, and will reach the local community via a dedicated Facebook and Instagram page titled ‘LivingWithEczemaNetwork’. The platform will help empower individuals suffering from the condition, while tackling misconceptions around eczema and driving key conversations among various communities.
“Atopic dermatitis remains the most common skin condition and yet, there are still many misconceptions surrounding its symptoms and management. This can perpetuate stigmatisation and lead to adverse effects for those who endure it,” explained Dr Al Hammadi.
Referring to raising awareness as a first step, he pointed out that eczema is a condition that not only affects a patient but also psychologically impacts their family, who witness their suffering.
“Controlling the condition means you being able to wear any piece of clothing without worrying about your eczema showing. It also means that you have managed it so that it does not interfere with your daily activities or wake you up from sleeping,” said Dr Al Hammadi.
What triggers eczema?
Eczema currently affects 10 to 25 per cent of children and around 10 to 20 per cent of adults worldwide.
“These individuals are not only battling physical symptoms but are also dealing with its impact on their mental wellbeing and quality of life, which is an important aspect to address. Our aim is to own the conversation and help lift the current stigma around the condition,” said Dr Al Hammadi.
The causes of eczema include genetics, type of skin barrier and environmental factors. However, during the use of atopic creams, the reoccurrence of dry and itchy patches can be due to several triggers.
“Avoidance of triggers such as jewellery, types of clothes, detergents, types of foods and others is important once they have been identified by a patient as a trigger,” said Dr Al Hammadi.
“Only 30 per cent of the time is food the cause of the eczema flare-up. It is important to go through the process of elimination of trigger foods,” he said.
Steroid-phobia, or the hesitation of using medication consisting of cortisone, is common among patients, but Dr Al Hammadi said short-term use of steroid-based creams in the right concentration does not cause any side effects.
Is there a cure?
Eczema is treated using a range of ointment creams, steroid-based creams, immunosuppressant pills and moisturisers. However, it does not have a permanent cure.
In 2018, the UAE was one of five countries to introduce a new injection that treats moderate and severe atopic dermatitis, with more than 300 patients using them to date. Known as ‘Dupilumab,’ the injection by Sanofi, offers patients suffering from extreme eczema hope. The treatment consists of one injection every two weeks for as long as recommended by the dermatologist.
Similar to an insulin shot, the injection is taken under the skin by patients whose eczema does not respond to traditional therapy methods.
“Eczema is a chronic condition, which in severe cases requires the continuation use of injections. It is a life-long solution, however we do stop the injection use in certain cases such as pregnancy or for observation,” said Dr Al Hammadi.