“Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin condition, characterized by intensely dry and itchy areas of the skin, and people of all skin colours, races and ethnicities can be affected by eczema, yet very few images in general medicine textbooks show the condition on darker skin,” said Dr. Sonya Abdulla1.
Eczema is the name for a group of skin conditions that cause the skin to become red, itchy, and inflamed. Eczema affects all skin colors. Approximately 15-20% of Canadians suffer from Eczema. The most common form of eczema is called Atopic Dermatitis.
“This shortcoming has left doctors with difficulties in recognizing eczema on skin with darker pigment, leaving many without the proper resources and information needed for diagnoses. The #SkinVisibility book can help bridge the gap by providing people of colour with a visual reference to help them get the treatment needed.”
To help sufferers recognize key symptoms and find solutions, the #SkinVisibility campaign has additional resources, which include:
- New Canadian Baby Eczema Page
- The Brandon Gonez Show
- The Surprising Truth About Eczema and Black Skin
“In the US, Eczema is the second most frequent skin disease to affect Black skin, but experts believe it may be underdiagnosed. This is due in part to the fact that historically, physicians have been trained primarily to diagnose eczema on white skin. In fact, a recent US study found that less than 5 percent of the images in general medicine textbooks showed conditions on darker skin, and the standard outcome measures used have poor reliability and validity in patients with very dark skin, making it even more difficult for doctors to recognize and diagnose on skin with more pigment”.
Medical textbook images of eczema have historically shown how it appears on light skin — red, scaly, and inflamed. However, eczema looks quite different on darker skin tones — appearing darker than the rest of the skin, including grey, purple, pink or red hues, and as a result, misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can occur. The book will help:
- Amplify and bring awareness of eczema on diverse skin to improve care and treatment
- Offer a visual resource for those who may be struggling with eczema
- Provide advice directly from dermatologists and patients on how to identify symptoms and get the correct diagnosis
“When examining your skin, your healthcare provider will look for an area of unimpacted skin first – skin without lesions, to determine the difference in colour and texture compared to areas where you have active symptoms.
Studies have shown that melanin-rich skin does not retain as much water as lighter skin tones, which means that in general, black people are more likely to have dry skin. Although eczema can be found anywhere on the body, eczema on black skin is often found on the fronts of the arms and legs.
Other signs to look for:
- Very dry or scaly skin
- Intense itching
- Skin thickening (lichenification)
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Small bumps on torso, arms, or legs (called papular eczema)
- Bumps that develop around hair follicles and resemble goosebumps (called follicular accentuation)”
Impact on the quality of life
“Dealing with eczema can take its toll. In fact, research shows atopic dermatitis is associated with a lower quality of life than a number of other common chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. The harmful effects can impact a range of areas, including emotional and mental health, physical activity, social functioning, sleep disturbance, work productivity, leisure activities, and family relationships.
Just know you’re not alone. Half of adults with moderate to severe AD say that atopic dermatitis significantly limits their lifestyle and nearly 35% with mild atopic dermatitis in the US also experience some lifestyle limitations.
Having eczema may make you feel anxious, embarrassed, or lacking in confidence. It could also make you feel angry, frustrated or depressed. More than one-third of people with AD say they “often” or “always” feel angry or embarrassed by their appearance due to the disease and one-third to one-half of adults with AD avoid social interactions because of their appearance. If you’re experiencing anxiety or depression, consult a healthcare provider or mental health specialist.
While there is no single solution for coping with eczema, there are lots of management strategies that can help – some literal, like taking medicine daily or sticking to a skincare routine. Others are more subtle and personal, like practicing self-care, taking time for you, and finding distractions. The key is knowing yourself and finding what works best for you”.
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