I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Pfizer, Inc. to write about the signs, symptoms, and treatments available for eczema/atopic dermatitis in communities of color. All opinions are my own.
Growing up, the thought of wearing short pants or sleeves made me cringe. I was a brown skin girl with dark spots that were often flaky or ashy. I was ashamed and didn’t want anyone to see it. For years, I equated this condition to the color of my skin and I hated it. I had no idea that more than 31 million Americans dealt with this condition or that it was called eczema and atopic dermatitis (or atopic eczema) is one of its several types. What I did know is that my mom tried every known remedy to fix it.
When the black community speaks of our parents in the kitchen cooking up things to fix whatever ails us, this is what we mean. My mom would buy things from the store and with the eye of a scientist whip up something to stop the itch and give my skin a shine. A PEER (Pediatric Eczema Elective Registry ) study from Perelman Center at the University of Pennsylvania, highlights racial disparities in the everyday impact of eczema. New research shows Hispanic and black children are more likely than white children to miss school due to the chronic skin disease. I can remember asking my mom to allow me to stay home during those times when her “home remedy” wore off. The questions and looks from friends was more than I wanted to deal with.
As a teenager, I learned more about eczema and how I could not use the popular soaps and/or makeup products that many of my friends were using. During these times, no one was talking about “clean beauty” and despite trying, I had to resolve that I would never wear makeup. Yet again, I felt like the color of my skin had placed limitations on me. My mother sensed this and the lessons began. She made certain that colourism never made me feel less than and we sought the help of a medical professional. I wanted makeup but she wanted to get to the root of what was happening.
I have teamed up with Med-IQ to help generate awareness around eczema/atopic dermatitis, specifically its signs and symptoms. Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals.
What is Eczema andAtopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis, a chronic form of eczema, is a disorder associated with dry skin, which begins with intense itching that is aggravated by scratching. The exact cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown, and there is no known cure. Around 16.5 million adults in the US have atopic dermatitis, with 6.6 million reporting moderate-to-severe symptoms.
We saw a few doctors before the diagnosis was confirmed. My skin was never red but always itchy with dark spots. According to Andrew Alexis, M.D., M.P.H., chair of dermatology at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai West, and Professor of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, eczema in darker skin types presents in unique ways and less is known about how do diagnose and treat eczema in skin of color patients. In patients with darker skin, it might not present with redness, it might present with dark spots, or itchy dark spots that get thicker over time.
What causes eczema?
Some patients may have a genetic predisposition that causes their skin to be more reactive, more prone to allergic factors on the surface of the skin which can trigger redness, scaling, bumpiness and itch.
Doctors consider the “atopic triad” – asthma, seasonal allergies, and atopic dermatitis – which is often seen in patients with atopic dermatitis or patients often have a family member with one of those symptoms.
How does atopic dermatitis effect patients and families?
Moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis can have a huge effect on quality of life for both the patient and the patient’s family. It can affect every aspect of a patient’s life, including sleep patterns, ability to focus in school or at work, mental health, and stress levels. This is especially relevant right now–in the middle of a global pandemic–when people’s stress levels are higher.
In addition, there is an economic impact to eczema for many patients because over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and treatments can be really expensive. Additionally, some patients cycle through many various treatments, which can be both frustrating and expensive. My physician was able to prescribe a cream for me that had very little co-pay but once that cream became available over-the-counter, I had to use it sparingly.
Atopic eczema is chronic and does not just “go away”; it increases the risk of infections and affects patients’ ability to function in their daily lives, so parents of children and individuals with atopic eczema should be encouraged to seek treatment. My mother was proactive in seeking care and it is why I continue to see a dermatologist as an adult.
A general skin care regime of moisturizers, warm baths and learning to avoid triggers are suggested. Luckily there are more options available to lessen the effect of atopic eczema.
The goal of treatment should be to navigate life by reducing flare-ups instead of quick fixes when flare-ups do occur. Be mindful that the Covid-19 precautions have us washing our hands and often using hard hand sanitizers that may further irritate the skin and eczema rashes.
Should you need a dermatologist, many offices are offering Telemedicine as an effective alternative. Dr. Andrew Alexis will be discussing Telemedicine during a facebook live discussion with Jeannette Kaplun on Tuesday, December 15th from 6 -6:30 PM ET.
About that Brown Girl
Today that brown girl loves the skin she is in and she lets everyone know. I am also raising my kids to know that. The color of their skin should never limit them. I continue to learn about treatments for my eczema and remain connected to my favorite dermatologist.
How you can help
Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input. The survey will take less than 10 minutes to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about your experiences with atopic dermatitis, which will help us develop future educational initiatives. Once you've completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will be used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize and to send a follow-up survey as part of this same initiative.
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