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(BPT) - What happens when your daily life becomes challenging because of a serious skin disease? Meet William, a 31-year-old database and mechanical quality engineer who lives with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis (AD), a serious, chronic inflammatory skin disease. Atopic dermatitis is characterized by rashes that can include intense itching, skin dryness, cracking, redness, crusting and oozing,,, and the disease can have a serious psychological, social and physical impact.
For William, the disease has affected many aspects of his life – it’s dictated what he can and can’t do, his hobbies, his relationships and his career. “People think atopic dermatitis is ‘just a skin condition’ but they don’t understand how debilitating it can be, and that it can impact my ability to function day-to-day,” he says.
William is not alone. An estimated 1.6 million adults in the United States are living with uncontrolled moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis. The physical burden of the disease can be unbearable. On a daily basis, William’s itch can be constant, and during a flare-up, which can happen unpredictably and often, his symptoms are exacerbated to the point of debilitation. In his early 20s, William experienced a flare-up that was so painful that he wasn’t able to stand up or turn his head, preventing him from going to work or even walking around the house.
A recent national survey of 505 U.S. adults who self-reported being diagnosed with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis revealed that the majority of people surveyed have made lifestyle modifications in order to manage their disease. Of those who participated in the survey:
53 percent of people living with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis reported that their disease has negatively impacted their daily lives.82 percent have made lifestyle modifications, such as choosing a career that limits in-person interaction with other people.26 percent of people report a negative impact on their ability to be productive at work.55 percent reported that their confidence was negatively impacted due to their disease.More than a quarter of people surveyed report that they have had 10 or more nights of interrupted sleep in the past month.
The constant itching and pain associated with the disease can make people feel self-conscious about their appearance and frustrated by continuous discomfort. Having atopic dermatitis can also be isolating, as people may be embarrassed by their skin lesions or may be in so much pain that they do not want to interact with other people, especially during a flare up. “When I’m experiencing a flare-up, I don’t want to be around anyone because I’m so uncomfortable,” William says. “I have a great social support system of friends and family, but at times they don’t really understand what I’m going through.” William hopes that by sharing his story, people living with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis will know that they are not alone and that there are many other people also struggling to manage their disease.
William is sharing his story as part of Understand AD, a national campaign focused on educating people about moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis and raising awareness about the physical and quality of life impact of the disease.
Visit www.UnderstandAD.com to watch William’s story, get connected with advocates such as the National Eczema Association and Dermatology Nurses' Association, learn more about moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis, and hear from award-winning chef, media personality and restaurateur Elizabeth Falkner who has lived with atopic dermatitis for the past 20 years.
The survey was conducted online in the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of Sanofi Genzyme and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. between July 28 and August 17, 2016. The research was conducted among 505 U.S. adults aged 18+ who self-reported being diagnosed by a physician with moderate or severe atopic dermatitis, eczema, or atopic eczema. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, household income, and household size were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.
 World Allergy Association 2004: http://www.worldallergy.org/professional/allergic_diseases_center/atopiceczema/. Accessed September 15, 2016.
 Bieber T. Mechanisms of disease: atopic dermatitis. N Engl J Med. 2008;358:1483-9
 http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/atopic-dermatitis#risk Accessed: September 15, 2016.
 Adelphi Final Report, data on file