Australians living with severe atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, are struggling with low self-esteem, leading to increasing social isolation, a study has found.
In response, Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia is calling for greater awareness and understanding of the psychological burden the skin disease has on a person's quality of life.
It is estimated more than 800,000 Australians live with atopic dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin which causes intense itching and weeping of skin lesions.
Symptoms range from mild to severe, with about 27,000 living with severe AD in Australia.
The PEEK Study by the International Centre for Community Driven Research assessed the quality of life of those living with AD.
Almost half (46 per cent) of participants reported low self-esteem and confidence.
Nearly half (45 per cent) of those with very severe AD said the condition had a significant impact on family relationships and intimacy with a partner, while the majority (85 per cent) experienced regular sleep disturbance.
More than half of all participants living with either severe and very severe AD (54 per cent) said clinicians had told them "there is nothing we can do".
Dermatologist, Associate Professor Saxon Smith says the compounding challenge for people living with the disease is that current treatment regimens can also impact their quality of life.
"Some people have to have diluted bleach baths, or do wet bandage dressings just to find short term relief from the physical symptoms of the disease."
"These are some of the options that people living with AD employ. The fact that in many instances these options are only moderately effective makes it so much worse."
Maria Said, CEO of Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia says too often people living with severe AD have become despondent and its important they have hope.
"From depression and anxiety to social isolation, the inability to sleep and therefore work and a struggle to maintain lasting relationships are real for some. It's important that the realities of these challenges are understood by the medical community, workplaces and all in the Australian community," said Ms Said.
She also urged those living with AD to reach out for help.
"We want people to know that they're not alone and that we can help navigate the way to accurate diagnosis, optimal treatment and ongoing management."
Australian Associated Press