An Irish survey has shown the hidden burden of one of the most common skin conditions

A recent Irish survey findings released by the Irish Skin Foundation (ISF) ahead of World Atopic Eczema Day on 14 September revealed the hidden burden of this common skin condition, with over 40 per cent of those surveyed reporting the need to cut household expenditure because of the day-to-day cost of managing atopic eczema (AE).

AE, or atopic dermatitis, is a common, non-contagious, inflammatory skin condition that can start at any time of life, but is most common in childhood and is thought to affect as many as one-in-five children and one-in-10 adults.

The cost of eczema treatments and doctor appointments needed to manage the condition can be a significant financial burden. The ISF survey revealed that 42 per cent of carers of children and 49 per cent of adults reported cutting back on household expenses due to the cost of managing AE. The figures suggest that one-quarter of those surveyed spend at least €2,300 annually on doctor fees, over-the-counter management products and prescription treatments.

Negative impacts

The survey findings also reveal the pronounced negative impacts that AE can have on quality of life, including sleep disruption, absences from school, as well as participation in exercise and social activities. A major symptom of AE is intense itch, which is commonly reported to disrupt sleep, with other findings revealing that the overwhelming majority of children (86 per cent) and adults (84 per cent) living with AE experience ongoing sleep disturbance. Additionally, more than a quarter (26 per cent) of carers of children with eczema say their child missed one-to-two days of school per month due to their condition, with over a third (34 per cent) of children and two-thirds (65 per cent) of adults admitting to avoiding exercise, activities and sport. More than half (52 per cent) of adults surveyed avoid social activities altogether.

The disruption and stress that moderate and severe atopic eczema can cause is very clear from the findings of our recent survey…

Consultant Dermatologist Prof Anne-Marie Tobin commented on the results: “These new Irish survey findings provide us with valuable insights into the often-hidden burden experienced by those living with or caring for people with moderate-severe atopic eczema.

“To mark the second World Atopic Eczema Day, the ISF survey findings further underscore that people living with this very common condition experience a whole host of challenges in their daily lives, beyond the pain and discomfort of this very common, debilitating skin disease.”

Stress

ISF CEO Mr David McMahon added: “The disruption and stress that moderate and severe atopic eczema can cause is very clear from the findings of our recent survey. And while we know that the family impact of atopic eczema can be profound, we were surprised how disturbed sleep, lost school days and potentially productivity features so strongly.

“Our work with families impacted by eczema, particularly at this time of the year as the school term starts back, focuses on supporting people to re-establish care routines that will strengthen the skin barrier. This is quite important in advance of the weather cooling and central heating being turned on again in the autumn, both of which can be a challenge for vulnerable skin and can lead to flares.

“The Irish Skin Foundation”, he added, “has plenty of great simple tips, guidance and resources for anyone who wants to establish a new skin barrier care routine at www.IrishSkin.ie. The charity also operates a free helpline with access to specialist dermatology nurses who provide one-to-one guidance about a range of skin conditions and problems.”

Hidden burden

The findings from the ISF’s ‘Living with Atopic Eczema Survey’ were gathered from 454 participants living with predominately moderate-to-severe eczema or caring for someone with eczema in Ireland. The ISF released the findings to highlight the hidden burden of the disease ahead of this year’s World Atopic Eczema Day. This year, the ISF joined GlobalSkin, a unique global alliance, committed to improving the lives of patients with skin conditions worldwide, in raising awareness and understanding of the impact of eczema on patients’ lives.

An ‘Atopic Eczema Panel Discussion’ with medical experts and patient advocates will take place at the ISF’s skin-health information and awareness event, SkinSideOut, on 16 November at the Science Gallery, Trinity College Dublin.