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More Than Skin Deep: The Challenges of Living with Atopic Dermatitis

What happens when your daily life becomes challenging because of a serious skin disease?

William, a 31-year-old database and mechanical quality engineer, lives with and understands these challenges too well. William has atopic dermatitis (AD), a serious, chronic inflammatory skin disease that is characterized by rashes that can include intense itching, skin dryness, cracking, redness, crusting and oozing. The disease can have a serious psychological, social and physical impact.

For William, the disease has affected many aspects of his life – it’s dictated what he can and can’t do, his hobbies, his relationships and his career. “People think atopic dermatitis is ‘just a skin condition’ but they don’t understand how debilitating it can be, and that it can impact my ability to function day-to-day,” he says.

People think atopic dermatitis is ‘just a skin condition’ but they don’t understand how debilitating it can be, and that it can impact my ability to function day-to-day.
William, atopic dematitis patient

William is not alone. An estimated 1.6 million adults in the United States are living with uncontrolled moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis. The physical burden of the disease can be unbearable. On a daily basis, William’s itch can be constant, and during a flare-up, which can happen unpredictably and often, his symptoms are exacerbated to the point of debilitation. In his early 20s, William experienced a flare-up that was so painful that he wasn’t able to stand up or turn his head, preventing him from going to work or even walking around the house.

Understand AD

The constant itching and pain associated with the disease can make people feel self-conscious about their appearance and frustrated by continuous discomfort. Having atopic dermatitis can also be isolating, as people may be embarrassed by their skin lesions or may be in so much pain that they do not want to interact with other people, especially during a flare-up. “When I’m experiencing a flare-up, I don’t want to be around anyone because I’m so uncomfortable,” William says. “I have a great social support system of friends and family, but at times they don’t really understand what I’m going through.” William hopes that by sharing his story, people living with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis will know that they are not alone and that there are many other people also struggling to manage their disease.

Understand AD is a national campaign focused on educating people about moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis and raising awareness about the physical and quality of life impact of the disease.

To learn more about William and to get connected with advocates such as the National Eczema Association and Dermatology Nurses' Association, visit

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