Contrary to popular belief, atopic dermatitis (AD) is not just a simple skin condition but a chronic inflammatory skin condition that’s often misunderstood due to lack of awareness – especially in Malaysia.
In conjunction with World Atopic Dermatitis Day (which falls on 14th September), the Dermatological Society of Malaysia (Persatuan Dermatologi Malaysia, PDM) have partnered up with award-winning Malaysian comic artist Erica Eng to develop a webcomic series so that others can see atopic dermatitis from a patient’s perspective.
More than 20% of Malaysian kids are affected by atopic dermatitis with visible signs such as dry, flaking skin or a scale-like appearance. With the #UncoverLife – Atopic Dermatitis, More Than Skin Deep campaign, hopefully AD patients can get proper diagnosis and treatment with minimal disruption in their lives.
It’s also important to have an open discussion between patients, families and doctors. We can start by being informed and addressing the following widespread misconceptions about AD:
Myth 1: Cutting out on certain food will cure AD.
Fact 1: Not everyone with AD have food allergies that can trigger flare-ups. Before you cut out food with important nutritional values, speak to your doctor first.
Myth 2: Steroids are bad for you!
Fact 2: Topical steroids are an important part of managing AD, together with proper use of moisturisers. They have 70 years of good track record and are clinically-proven to be safe and effective when used according to your doctor’s advice.
Myth 3: AD is just a skin problem, nothing serious.
Fact 3: AD may only be visible on the skin, but it’s stressful mentally too. Many patients suffer from sleepless nights as well as feeling insecure, lonely or depressed, as people tend to stay away from those with AD.
Myth 4: AD is contagious and people with AD have bad personal hygiene!
Fact 4: Lots of scratching can lead to red, swollen and crusty patches or infection. While this may look unpleasant, it’s not contagious in any way. And AD is definitely not caused by dirt at all. In fact, too much washing or the use of harsh soaps can make it worse!
Myth 5: AD is just a childhood problem, and children will outgrow it by puberty.
Fact 5: More than 20% of Malaysian children have AD. Some will grow out of it, but some people continue to suffer from AD well into adulthood.
Myth 6: It’s cheap and easy to treat AD.
Fact 6: AD is different for everyone, so treatment needs to be personalised, and it is also important to continue treatment for the long-term. Often topical treatments are enough for mild AD. Those with severe AD may need to undergo advanced treatments like phototherapy, steroid/oral medications, or biologics therapy. While topical treatments can be relatively inexpensive, over time these costs can add up significantly, especially for advanced therapies.
Myth 7: Allergy tests are required to diagnose AD.
Fact 7: No lab test or skin prick test is needed to identify AD. Doctors will likely make a diagnosis by examining your skin, assess the disease severity, and its impact on your quality of life.
The #UncoverLife webcomic series is available on the microsite https://uncoverlife-ad.com/.