Controlling atopic dermatitis takes continuous effort. As a chronic form of eczema, atopic dermatitis is caused by an overactive immune system and presents a range of symptoms including dry, red, itchy skin with swelling, oozing, crusting, and scaly areas.

Unlike contact dermatitis or allergic dermatitis where symptoms occur after exposure to an irritant or allergen, atopic dermatitis involves periods of acute worsening of the condition, referred to as flares. Flares vary from person to person — covering only certain parts of the body in milder cases, or the entire body in severe cases.

Symptoms affect more than just skin

Apart from dealing with physical symptoms, those with atopic dermatitis face emotional and mental health challenges including self-consciousness, social isolation, depression, and anxiety. According to the Eczema Society of Canada’s 2016/2017 Quality of Life Report, 87 percent of respondents reported that their atopic dermatitis negatively impacts their quality of life. In addition, 79 percent of respondents reported loss of sleep, 32 percent have missed work or important life events because of their condition, and 30 percent have had to change careers or give up certain activities.

Safer and more effective therapies available

In milder cases, daily application of specialized moisturizers is often sufficient but moderate to severe forms of the disease usually require systemic therapy, typically with anti-inflammatory drugs. However, long-term use of these drugs can lead to serious health problems such as kidney damage, high blood pressure, liver damage, osteoporosis, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetes.

Because atopic dermatitis requires long-term therapy, patients with severe forms of the condition are additionally challenged in balancing the health risks and tradeoffs of their therapy with the need to treat their symptoms. However, that’s changing thanks to emerging biologic therapies designed to stimulate the body’s natural defense system. “Not only do they work better than the treatments we’ve had, but they don’t have the side effects that our older therapies do,” says Dr. Melinda Gooderham, Dermatologist and Investigator at the SKiN Centre for Dermatology in Peterborough, ON.

For Dr. Gooderham’s patients, biologics have been life-changing. “They sleep all night and they’re no longer itchy, so they can focus on what really matters like their family, friends, work, and school work.” Best of all, they have newfound freedom. “They’re no longer carrying around that burden of disease and anxiety that it could become active at any time,” she says.

If you suffer from atopic dermatitis, speak to your health care professional to learn more about biologic therapy.