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The Reuters news staff had no role in the production of this content. It was created by Reuters Plus, the brand marketing studio of Reuters.
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Working together to drive positive change in atopic dermatitis
I want to show both children and parents that they should not be afraid of AD. It’s important to raise awareness of this issue because those who are diagnosed need to know how to manage the condition—and know they are not alone.
Eloise Vanryssel, a world champion fencer from France, lives with AD. As a child, she chose to pursue fencing because it was the only sport which allowed her to cover her entire body and prevent others from seeing the rashes and marks on her skin.
There are so many misconceptions surrounding AD. People think it’s contagious and dirty; that you can give it to others just by touching them. My goal is to help destroy these myths. Everybody should be talking about this—there is nothing to be ashamed of. I am happy to use my voice, but we need many voices.
Diagnosed with AD as a baby, Eloise has faced the condition her entire life, dealing with children who didn’t understand, as well as physical discomfort, including intense itching. Now at 24 years old, competing for the French national team and working towards her Olympic debut in Paris, Eloise juggles her training schedule with a career in the French Army and pursuing an engineering degree.
Her primary mission remains raising awareness of AD, particularly helping newly diagnosed children and their families come to terms with the disease. In 2020, after Eloise released a personal video detailing her battle to control her symptoms of AD, the response was overwhelming. Patients of all ages from around the world reached out, both to ask for advice and offer support.
In many ways, AD was a positive because it led me to my sport. And that sport has given me focus, confidence and freedom.
Having started fencing to hide her skin condition, it’s now the sport itself—and the visibility she has earned from it—which has given her a platform to speak out and share her story as a health advocate. For Eloise, there is one goal: to help other AD patients fight to better control their symptoms of AD and win.
My mission is to spread positivity and knowledge about this condition. I have fought a lot of opponents, but AD is the most challenging opponent in my life.
To many people, atopic dermatitis (AD)—the most common form of eczema—may seem like just an itchy skin condition.² But AD is complex and far-reaching. The chronic inflammatory disease’s flare-ups are affected by a malfunction in the patient’s immune system, and its symptoms go far beyond the skin.¹
As many as one in five children and one in 10 adults worldwide have AD, making it one of the most common dermatological conditions.⁴ In addition to flares, patients may suffer from intense, persistent itching, with skin lesions that may cover much of the body and may become easily infected.⁵ Up to 90% of AD patients first develop symptoms before the age of 5, which can persist throughout their lives.⁶ Over time, this can lead to a complex collection of unseen additional issues, from insomnia to depression, anxiety and social isolation.⁷
The good news is that significant headway has been made in recent years for managing AD and improving the lives of those affected. Rapid scientific progress has been matched by the relentless efforts of the global AD community. These changemakers—patients, caregivers, advocates, researchers, dermatologists and other healthcare providers—show up day in and day out to continue to make a difference for patients with AD.
As many as one in five children and one in 10 adults worldwide have AD, making it one of the most common medical conditions. But while most patients will face rare, manageable flare-ups, those with more chronic cases can suffer intense, persistent itching, with skin lesions that may cover much of the body and become easily infected. Up to 90% of AD patients first develop symptoms before the age of five, which can persist throughout their lives. Over time, this can lead to a complex collection of unseen additional issues, from insomnia to depression, anxiety and social isolation.
The good news is that significant headway has been made in recent years for managing AD and improving the lives of those affected. Rapid scientific progress has been matched by the relentless efforts of the global AD community. These changemakers—patients, caregivers, advocates, researchers, dermatologists and other healthcare providers—show up day in and day out.
Here we celebrate three of these inspirational people, elevating their voices and highlighting the many ways they contribute to a better future for all impacted by the disease. Their stories are a reminder that with shared commitment, education and diligence we can continue to drive positive change.
DR. MARIO PICOZZA
Our mission is relieving the burden of AD and giving patients a normal life after a prompt diagnosis.
That’s how it was for Dr. Picozza, who began suffering from AD in childhood, before going on to become a leading neuroimmunologist, as well as president of ANDeA (the Italian National Association of Atopic Dermatitis/Eczema). A patient advocate group co-founded by Dr. Picozza in 2017, ANDeA aims to defend AD sufferers’ rights to a healthy life, through public recognition, published studies and political lobbying.
There’s a continuous exchange between Dr. Picozza’s day job in the lab and his work as a volunteer helping AD patients. At the heart of that overlap is the relationship between a healthy brain and a healthy immune system, with neuropsychological well-being key to his approach in both.
A strong relationship exists between inflammatory skin AD symptoms and neuropsychological well-being. Taking this into account is of central importance when treating patients.
As a “wounded healer” who has also suffered from AD in adulthood, Dr. Picozza appreciates the obstacles and frustrations faced by patients of all ages—from intense itching to damaged social relationships and increased self-isolation—and works to mitigate them. Above all, his goal is to fight the assumption that AD is merely a matter of discomfort with easy-to-spot environmental triggers, and to educate patients and caregivers alike on this complex condition, as well as effective ways to manage it.
When I found an effective therapy for my AD after years of suffering, I decided to help other people. The reason I volunteer is rooted in this experience, and in the belief that there’s hope for everybody with AD—provided they have the right information.
DR. MELINDA GOODERHAM
My goal is for all dermatologists to see the bigger picture; AD is a disease which is not only skin deep.
An experienced dermatologist and scientific researcher based in Canada, Dr. Melinda Gooderham started her own practice dedicated to treating skin conditions like AD in 2006. She adopts a holistic approach to each patient, establishing the bigger picture around their AD diagnosis, which can potentially be a lifelong condition, and the “hidden burden” many sufferers carry from childhood.
The science behind AD is fascinating. When you take that knowledge into the clinic, you realize that you’re dealing with human beings shouldering hidden mental burdens. If we can target and manage it earlier, we can completely alter those people’s trajectories; we can help them to live their best lives.
A fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. Gooderham has been working in the field for more than 20 years. What began as a clinical interest in AD developed into a deep commitment to the human side of the process too, harnessing experience and empathy alongside the latest scientific data to push the boundaries of managing the condition.
Over the past two decades, Dr. Gooderham has seen significant breakthroughs in both the understanding and management of AD. It’s a trend she welcomes and is working to accelerate—in both her day-to-day practice and her ongoing scientific research as principal investigator for the SKiN Research Centre.
Between 2010 and 2020, we saw lots of advancement in terms of research, understanding and management of psoriasis, and now we’re seeing the same breakthroughs with AD. It’s truly great to have played a part in that.
Dr. Mario Picozza takes inspiration from Carl Jung, a celebrated psychiatrist, who first identified the archetype of the “wounded healer”: a former patient who helps combat their condition in others.
While the itching, rashes and severe skin discomfort associated with AD are undoubtedly the primary physical issues for sufferers, Dr. Gooderham believes that the disease’s hidden mental burden is too often overlooked. This can manifest as anything from severely disrupted sleep patterns during flare-ups, to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and isolation—significant tertiary challenges which should be recognized and responded to.⁷ Above all for Dr. Gooderham, it’s about the person beneath the skin.
Changemakers like Eloise Vanryssel, Dr. Mario Picozza and Dr. Melinda Gooderham are using their day-to-day experiences —from national advocacy groups to the international sporting arena—to raise awareness of atopic dermatitis on the global stage.
As knowledge and understanding of this common skin condition—affecting millions around the world—continues to grow, so will the empowerment of patients and caregivers.² This way, people living with AD can have more informed conversations with their specialist (or healthcare team) and will also have ready access to an enormous support network, courtesy of the greater AD community.
This connection can help reduce the unspoken fears and crush the myths and misconceptions that still surround the condition, alleviating the hidden social and mental burdens that can lead to unnecessary additional suffering.
These changemakers walk forward together, collectively driving change in the face of this complex inflammatory disease which—as those who have experienced it know—is far more than just skin deep.
1. National Eczema Association. “Here’s What You Need to Know About Type 2 Inflammation and Eczema.” March 2023. https://nationaleczema.org/blog/heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-type-2-inflammation-and-eczema/. Accessed: July 2023.
2. National Eczema Association. “Atopic Dermatitis.” 2023. https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/atopic-dermatitis. Accessed: July 2023.
3. Silverberg J, et al. “Patient Burden and Quality of Life in Atopic Dermatitis in US Adults.” Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 121.3 (2018): 340-347. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anai.2018.07.006
4.Eczema Council. “Global Report on Atopic Dermatitis 2022.” Global Atopic Dermatitis Atlas. https://www.eczemacouncil.org/assets/docs/global-report-on-atopic-dermatitis-2022.pdf. Accessed: July 2023.
5. National Eczema Association. “What Is Eczema?” 2023. https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/. Accessed: July 2023.
6.Boston Children’s Hospital. Eczema. 2023. https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions/eczema. Accessed: July 2023
7.American Academy of Dermatology Association. Eczema Types: Atopic Dermatitis Symptoms. 2023. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/types/atopic-dermatitis/symptoms. Accessed: July 2023
DER.23.07.0012 | September 2023
Atopic dermatitis (AD), a chronic inflammatory condition that is caused in part by an overactive immune system, can be both physically and mentally debilitating for the millions of people affected.¹, ² Its burdensome symptoms are more than skin deep, impacting many aspects of patients’ lives.³
Sanofi and Regeneron celebrate the relentless efforts of the global AD community, specifically three of these inspirational people, by elevating their voices and highlighting the many ways they contribute to a better future for all impacted by the disease. Their stories are a reminder that with shared commitment, education and diligence, we can continue to drive positive change.
Photos of Eloise Vanryssel by ©Pierre-Olivier / CAPA Pictures
Photos of Dr. Mario Picozza by Reuters Plus
Photos of Dr. Melinda Gooderham by Reuters Plus