Skin as an enemy: A life with itchiness

By Laura TomassiniLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

More and more people are being diagnosed with neurodermatitis. The author of this article has also suffered from this chronic skin disease since childhood. Talking to other affected people reveals the complexity of this disorder, which turns the skin and everyday life of many people upside down.

From a medical point of view, the story should have been about interleukins, T-helper cells and inherited eczema susceptibility, because neurodermatitis as a clinical picture is so complex that only a few people are really familiar with it. The chronic inflammatory skin disease, also known as atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis in technical jargon, is one of the most common skin diseases in both children and adults and often accompanies sufferers throughout their lives. According to the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF), up to 25 percent of the population in Northern Europe suffer from atopic dermatitis at some point in their lives, almost a quarter of all people are affected.

However, purely factual statistics do not do justice to the reality of those concerned. Their story is not written in technical medical vocabulary, but tells of the love-hate relationship with their skin, the largest organ in the human body with an average surface area of 1.8 square meters. As a barrier to the outside world, a storage place for fat and fluid, and a marker of identity, the derma plays an important role in everyday life. If it is damaged, the quality of life goes off track. Dry and reddened areas, crusty and itchy rashes, weeping eczema – a horror for anyone who has ever felt severe itching.

Sick despite a healthy lifestyle

"I remember days when my whole body itched and I sometimes woke up at night because I had to scratch myself so much", says Tammy. The 28-year-old has suffered from atopic dermatitis since childhood and her symptoms worsened again after she contracted Covid-19 last December. "As a kid, I always had rashes on my arms and knees after sports and was allergic to many foods. In high school it started with my eyes, they were red and inflamed and since the pandemic I've had an extremely dry scalp and eczema on my back and décolleté."

While the dry patches on the body can be hidden with clothing, redness on the neck, face or even on the skin of the eyes is a constant bother, both physically and psychologically. "When I meet my friends, I know I look sick to them, even though I do everything I can to be healthy. When I cross colleagues in the hallway at work, I avoid greeting them because I don't want them to see my red eyes", Tammy reports. She never leaves home without cream, has already been to five ophthalmologists and is currently dribbling her sclera (covers the eyeball up to the edge of the cornea, responsible for the white color of the eye as well as its shape and stability) with whitening drops – not because they relieve the pain, but so that she can at least feel "normal" on the outside.

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