Eczema is on the increase and that’s a worry because it is far more than simply a skin condition. It affects at least one in five children and one in 10 adults, with the UK having some of the highest rates of eczema in the world.
New research by Typharm reveals the impact on both mental and physical health of this chronic inflammatory skin condition, with almost two-thirds confirming that their eczema has a direct impact on their mood and behaviour. Far more than simply a skin condition, its psychological impact increases the risk of depression and anxiety, disrupts sleep, and has a toxic impact on quality of life.
According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, only Sweden has higher rates of disability and negative healthy outcomes as a result of this chronic inflammatory skin condition.
The new research by Typharm, which produces a range of prescription -only skin therapies inlcuding evidence backed medicated tape for painful cracked skin associated with eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis – Fludroxycortide Tape, it details the year-round struggle millions of eczema sufferers are enduring.
The research found that two-thirds (63%) confirm that their eczema has a direct impact on their mood and behaviour, with one in five (21%) saying this is often the case. Low mood and fatigue and more than half (54%) experience low mood and other mental and physical health impacts.
These includes include increased fatigue – 40%, impatience – 39%, mood swings – 37% and increased anger – 23%. This aligns with multiple studies, including research by the National Eczema Association which found that 30% of people with eczema have also been diagnosed with anxiety or depression.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Skin also heard evidence that 85% of dermatology patients believe the psychological impact of their skin condition is a major component of their illness.
Skin expert and GP with special interest in skin and an adviser to the Skin Life Sciences Founders, provides insight on the findings and on how to tackle eczema.
Dr Aslam says, “it is worrying that the new Typharm data reveals such high levels of fatigue as this is a common symptom of depression. The intense itching associated with eczema can also make sleep difficult and this alone, is a serious concern as we know that prolonged sleep disruption increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and many other serious health conditions”.
This also maps the corrosive effect eczema has on self-esteem with four in five (79%) of sufferers reporting that their eczema undermines their confidence, with more than a quarter (28%) saying this is often the case.
38% of eczema sufferers feel embarrassed, 42% keep their distance from people in the hope that others will not notice their ski, 28% avoid social situations, 23% feel isolated, 22% have become more quiet and 20% have become withdrawn.
Dr Aslam continues that “far too many people underestimate the psychological impact of skin conditions. if Eczema is poorly controlled, this can spill over into sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, reduced confidence and self-esteem, and other mental health problems.
What is Eczema?
A chronic inflammatory condition. Skin becomes cracked, red and sore, and so intensely itchy that people sometimes scratch until they bleed. Allergies, household chemicals and other irritants, clothing and even the weather can trigger flare-ups.
The National Institute for Care and Health Excellence (NICE) recommends a stepped approach, where treatment can be stepped up, or down, according to the severity of symptoms.
Dr Aslam says that it is very important to speak to your GP if your eczema is not under control apart from emollient’s there are prescription only creams and ointments, and also Fludroxycortide tape which many patients find very useful on areas such as the hands and elbows which are highly mobile. There is also oral medicines for extremely severe eczema.
The Typharm research shows that hands re the most common site for eczema to strike with 28% of those surveyed saying they are affected. Dr Aslam adds that “the fact that hands are the most commonly affected areas presents a major challenge because our hands are not only highly visible, they are also in constant use and are frequently exposed to irritants and allergens”.
Other high risk skin sites include Arms – 22%, Elbows – 20%, Scalp – 17%, Fingers – 13%, Stomach – 9%.
As many eczema sufferers know all too well, creams and emollients often provide poor symptom control when the hands are involved because these treatments are easily rubbed or washed off. They also do little to prevent further damage, or reduce the risk of infections, when the skin barrier has been compromised. According to Dr Aslam, “a far more effective solution is a steroid, waterproof tape which is a prescription-only transparent adhesive tape and impregranated with the steroid fludroxycordite. It is ideal for areas such as the hands which are always moving and always in use.
Understanding the issues
The research also details the deep distress association with eczema that most people don’t recognise it as a medical condition, yet one in four has suffered such a severe flare-up they have had to take time off work. Given the lack of understanding that exists around skin conditions, it’s perhaps not surprising that only a quarter are up-front about the reasons for their absence.
In addition to time off, some people with eczema confirm that it has reduced their productivity or the quality of their work. Two-thirds of people with eczema think it’s impossible for those who have no first-hand experience of the condition to appreciate the impact it has; this extends to family and friends.
Only three in ten (28%) people with eczema feel their friends are always supportive and only 38% say their family is fully supportive of their condition. Conversations with health professionals can be difficult too. More than a quarter will only discuss their condition with their GP or a pharmacist if they are asked about it, and almost a third of people with eczema are not receiving advice on how to manage their symptoms from a health professional.
A major missed opportunity, says Dr Aslam, as there are lifestyle changes which can help to reduce flare-ups and manage symptoms. Therapies can be stepped up when symptoms worse, but if your skin condition is not under control, it’s important to speak to a health professional about adjusting your treatment and skincare routine.
There is also a desperate need for better awareness of the therapies such as medicated tapes, which are available. Due to the health care professional lack of awareness and knowledge, despite proven effectiveness of the steroid creams and ointments, patients have never used, or been prescribed a tape inclusive of the steroid compound, fludroxycortide.
The Fludroxycortide Tape, a transparent medicated surgical tape impregnated with the steroid Fludroxycordide. When applied to skin, it helps reduce redness, swelling and itching and contributes to wound healing. It is used to treat difficult cases of dermatitis and eczema, especially when the skin is dry and scaly. It can also be used in wound care to help prevent the overgrowth of granular tissue which can hinder wound healing.
Skin conditions are often complex and there are no magic bullets, but taking a proactive approach to treatment can make a big difference in terms of both symptom control and psychological well-being. Consulting your GP and speaking to a health professional as well as lifestyle changes are some of the steps recommended by Dr Aslam.
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