Some links in this post may or may not be affiliate links. If you click on an affiliate link I will earn a commission which supports this site.
My Truth About Atopic Dermatitis
“Disclosure: This is a sponsored post by Sanofi Genzyme and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. as part of a paid program. All opinions are my own.”
My entire family has some form, in varying severity, of atopic dermatitis, and there are points where I have felt like it controlled our lives. Atopic dermatitis is a chronic form of eczema that is characterized by unpredictable flare-ups triggered in part by a malfunction in the immune system.,,, For my family and me, it can be painful, annoying, super-itchy and downright embarrassing. Symptoms of atopic dermatitis can include red rashes, intense itch, dryness, cracking, crusting and oozing of the skin on any part of the body.1
Our atopic dermatitis impacts our daily life and the decisions we make, and it’s a major challenge. It impacts the type of sheets we have on our bed, the clothing we wear and the types of detergent or soap we buy. For example, most of my clothing or sheets have to be made of “t-shirt material” (a type of cotton jersey sheet that’s soft and smooth) because other fabrics are just too irritating. When I stay at hotels, I have to bring my own pillowcase because I will get welts from anything that is slightly rough.
My symptoms have worsened as I have grown older. I get welts on my fingers now, my toes peel and I get raised bumps on the skin on my hips. Last summer, I was embarrassed to wear tank tops and sleeveless dresses because I had a nasty flare-up on my entire upper left arm (I actually still have a scar from the flare-up, which wouldn’t heal no matter what I did and took about three months before it even started to clear up). When I walked around, people looked at me like I had some sort of contagious disease. But, I can’t keep my atopic dermatitis covered up or else it can get worse, so I am left with the hard choice of being stared at, or if I do cover up, I’m left not being able to sleep later due to the itching.
My adult son has the worst time in the winter. His college buildings and his workplace have really dry air, which for him triggers flare-ups of the disease. Both my son and I also get acne looking welts on our face that can be super embarrassing because no one believes you that it’s not an acne flare-up.
While some people may think it’s “just a skin condition,” it’s unbelievable how itchy my atopic dermatitis can be and at times it’s downright painful. Atopic dermatitis does become a way of life and there are times you do get used to it, but for the most part it is just frustrating, painful and impacts my overall life more than people realize. While many people are affected by the disease, it seems like no one is talking about it, which is why I’m excited to support the national awareness campaign Understand AD. The campaign is focused on educating people about moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis and raising awareness about the physical and quality of life impact of the disease.
One of my favorite celebrity chefs, Elizabeth Falkner (Food Network, Bravo’s Top Chef), who has been living with atopic dermatitis for more than 20 years, is the spokesperson for the Understand AD campaign. Elizabeth, along with Sanofi Genzyme and Regeneron and in collaboration with the National Eczema Association and the Dermatology Nurses’ Association, is educating Americans about the physical and quality of life impact of atopic dermatitis. October is National Eczema Awareness Month, and I encourage you to visit www.UnderstandAD.com to learn more about Elizabeth’s experience, hear from other people living with the disease, learn more about moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis and get connected with advocates such as the National Eczema Association and Dermatology Nurses’ Association. You can check out Elizabeth’s story below.
About Elizabeth Falkner
Elizabeth Falkner is an award-winning chef, restaurateur, media personality and author. She has struggled with atopic dermatitis, a chronic form of eczema, for more than 20 years in her personal life and career. In her thirties, as Elizabeth’s career as a chef was starting to take off, she developed red, flaky, super-itchy lesions on her lower legs. These symptoms eventually also appeared on her hands. The stress of running a restaurant, the constant handwashing and dry air and intense heat from the oven, all elements of her profession that she loves, were pretty much a recipe for disaster for her skin.
Her symptoms persisted and worsened. Not knowing what was going on with her skin and seeking relief, she went to her doctor and was diagnosed with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis. It was not only physically painful and uncomfortable for her, but it was isolating as well. Over the years, she has tried a variety of prescription medications and over-the-counter creams and ointments. Despite her symptoms, Elizabeth is committed to living a healthy lifestyle. She is training for the 2016 New York City Marathon and has run multiple half marathons to prepare. She also practices and is a certified teacher in Jungshin, a sword-focused form of fitness, practices yoga and Pilates, and is a life-long soccer player. Originally from California, she now lives in New York City.
An award-winning chef, restaurateur, media personality and author, Elizabeth joined the Understand AD campaign because she wants to share her experience of living with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis in order to help people understand what a serious, life-impacting disease it can be. Atopic dermatitis has impacted so many parts of her life, and she wants to help create a community for people who may feel isolated and alone.
About Atopic Dermatitis
- Atopic dermatitis is characterized by chronic flare-ups triggered in part by a malfunction in the immune system, 2,5 even in the absence of an infection.
- Exacerbations or flare-ups of atopic dermatitis can appear all over the body. Common areas affected include the knees, elbows, ankles, face, neck, feet, hands and wrists.2
- The itching and burning sensation resulting from constant underlying inflammation often triggers scratching, but scratching only makes things worse.2,, It breaks down the skin barrier further, letting environmental triggers inside and exacerbating symptoms.2,6,7
- Inflamed, itchy, burning skin is one of the hallmark symptoms of atopic dermatitis, and it can feel unbearable. Intense itching and burning can be a constant frustration during the day and can keep patients up at night, affecting them professionally, physically, socially and psychologically.,,
- One of the most common symptoms is severe itch. 36 percent of 304 people surveyed with self-reported atopic dermatitis said that they experienced 20 or more years of daily itching.
- Many people with atopic dermatitis feel self-conscious and embarrassed about their appearance, which can lead them to avoid social situations and can also contribute to difficulties with relationships and intimacy.8,9,10
I received compensation to write this post. Regardless, all opinions expressed are still 100% my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, Jen Rattie Disclosure.
 http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/atopic-dermatitis#risk Accessed: September 13, 2016.
 National Institutes of Health (NIH). Handout on Health: Atopic Dermatitis (A type of eczema) May 2013. Available online: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Atopic_Dermatitis/default.asp. Accessed: September 13, 2016.
 Gittler JK, et al. Progressive activation of TH2/TH22 cytokines and selective epidermal proteins characterizes acute and chronic atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012; 130:6. 1345-1354.
 Leung DYM, Boguniewicz M, Howell MD, Nomura I, Hamid QA. New insights into atopic dermatitis. J Clin Invest. 2004;113:651-657.
 Lebwohl MG, Del Rosso JQ, Abramovits W, et al. Pathways to managing atopic dermatitis: consensus from the experts. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2013;6(7 Suppl):S2-S18
 Yosipovitch G, Papoiu ADP. What causes itch in atopic dermatitis? Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2008;8:306-311.
 Mollanazar NK, Smith PK, Yosipovitch G. Mediators of Chronic Pruritus in Atopic Dermatitis: Getting the Itch Out? Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2015 May 1. [Epub ahead of print]
 Misery L, Finlay AY, Martin N, et al. Atopic dermatitis: impact on the quality of life of patients and their partners. Dermatology. 2007;215:123-129.
 Zuberbier T, Orlow SJ, Paller AS, et al. Patient perspectives on the management of atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006;118:226-232.
 Eichenfield LF, Tom WL, Chamlin SL, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of atopic dermatitis. Section 1. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014;70:338-51.
 Dawn A, et al. Br J Dermatol. 2009;160;642-644
US-ILF-13134 | US.DUP.16.09.039