Many of us spent our teenage years bemoaning ill-timed pimples and seeking ways to conceal the awkwardness of growing up. But for Jessica, who has lived her entire life with atopic dermatitis, being a teenager meant navigating more than the average growing pain. It meant incessant itching from flare-ups and hyper-careful considerations on what to wear; she wanted to conceal her condition with clothing but needed to keep her skin cool and dry.
Atopic dermatitis is a skin condition common in children, which may continue through adulthood. Jessica is one of the 1.6 million adults in the U.S. who suffer from uncontrolled moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis. The condition is the most common form of eczema and often takes up residence in places like the neck, behind the ears, and on the back of knees, though it’s not limited to these areas. While doctors don’t know the exact cause, they do know that inflammation in the immune system plays a role. When an irritant inside or outside of the body triggers the immune system, it can produce this type of red, inflamed rash. The result? Dry, itchy, and uncomfortable patches.
Though she’d lived with atopic dermatitis all her life, it was in high school and college that her condition became nearly unbearable. She worked tirelessly with her doctors to explore new treatment solutions, but topical prescription therapies and corticosteroids only provided short-term relief.
Jessica’s journey with atopic dermatitis has been a series of ups and downs, but it’s also been punctuated with optimism, strength, and advocacy. Here, she gives us a glimpse into what it’s really like to live with atopic dermatitis — and how she found her silver lining.
When Working Out Won’t Work
“In college, any time I went to the gym, I would attempt to do something that would make me feel good, but as soon as I started sweating, my skin would start itching. I could handle the pain from a workout, and I could handle the discomfort from my atopic dermatitis, but it was difficult to manage both.”
Best Beach Practices
“Going to the beach is a catch 22. I love being in the sun — I even have a tattoo dedicated to the beach — but in my experience, sweat makes my atopic dermatitis worse. One important thing I’d do is make sure my sunscreen didn’t contain ingredients that would irritate my skin. What’s great is that now it seems there are more sunscreens focused toward people with sensitive skin.”
Be Your Biggest Advocate
“Make sure what you're saying is heard; if you're not going to advocate for yourself, no one else will. Do your own research. Know what's out there as far as treatment options go. Understand what your condition is as best you can. And find a doctor who listens to you. I’d tried many treatments and seen so many different doctors. Finally, I found a physician who heard me and who tried to figure out what could help me.”
After years of trying different treatments, Jessica's doctor prescribed Dupixent (dupilumab) to help manage her severe atopic dermatitis.
Dupixent is a first-of-its-class biologic treatment for people 12 years of age and older with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis (eczema) that is not well controlled with prescription therapies used on the skin (topical) or who cannot use topical therapies. In two 16-week clinical trials with Dupixent when used alone compared to a placebo, almost four times more adult patients with uncontrolled moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis taking Dupixent saw clear or almost clear skin as compared with those not taking Dupixent (37% taking Dupixent as compared to 10% taking placebo). Nearly half of patients taking Dupixent saw 75% skin improvement and some even saw 90% improvement. Dupixent can cause serious side effects including risk of allergic reactions including a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis and eye problems. The most common side effects include injection site reactions, eye and eyelid inflammation including redness, swelling and itching, pain in the throat (oropharyngeal pain) and cold sores in the mouth or on the lips.
The Not-So-Simple Side Of Bathing
“Showers are tough when you have atopic dermatitis. I tried all of it: oatmeal baths, bleach baths, Epsom salts, topical prescription therapies, and corticosteroids. They all felt okay, but it was temporary relief. After using Dupixent, my lesions started to clear up over time."
Surprised By Strength
“Having atopic dermatitis is exhausting. You want to keep it hidden beneath your clothes, but sweat and heat make the condition worse. So it’s this vicious cycle. That said, atopic dermatitis has made me more empathetic to people and their struggles, because I’ve struggled, too. I don't want people to pity me. Even though I have this condition, I don't let it hold me back. This experience has made me realize how much effort people go through to appear completely normal, and I'm able to tune in to when someone else is going through a difficult time.”
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
Do not use if you are allergic to dupilumab or to any of the ingredients in DUPIXENT®.
Before using DUPIXENT, tell your healthcare provider about all your medical conditions, including if you:
· have eye problems
· have a parasitic (helminth) infection
· are taking oral, topical, or inhaled corticosteroid medicines. Do not stop taking your corticosteroid medicines unless instructed by your healthcare provider. This may cause other symptoms that were controlled by the corticosteroid medicine to come back.
· are scheduled to receive any vaccinations. You should not receive a “live vaccine” if you are treated with DUPIXENT.
· are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known whether DUPIXENT will harm your unborn baby.
· are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known whether DUPIXENT passes into your breast milk.
Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and herbal supplements. If you are taking asthma medicines, do not change or stop your asthma medicine without talking to your healthcare provider.
DUPIXENT can cause serious side effects, including:
· Allergic reactions (hypersensitivity), including a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis. Stop using DUPIXENT and tell your healthcare provider or get emergency help right away if you get any of the following symptoms: breathing problems, fever, general ill feeling, swollen lymph nodes, swelling of the face, mouth and tongue, hives, itching, fainting, dizziness, feeling lightheaded (low blood pressure), joint pain, or skin rash.
· Eye problems. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any new or worsening eye problems, including eye pain or changes in vision.
The most common side effects include injection site reactions, eye and eyelid inflammation, including redness, swelling and itching, pain in the throat (oropharyngeal pain) and cold sores in your mouth or on your lips.
Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away. These are not all the possible side effects of DUPIXENT. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Use DUPIXENT exactly as prescribed. DUPIXENT is given as an injection under the skin (subcutaneous injection). If your healthcare provider decides that you or a caregiver can give DUPIXENT injections, you or your caregiver should receive training on the right way to prepare and inject DUPIXENT. Do not try to inject DUPIXENT until you have been shown the right way by your healthcare provider. In adolescents 12 years of age and older, it is recommended that DUPIXENT be administered by or under supervision of an adult.
DUPIXENT is a prescription medicine used to treat people 12 years and older with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis (eczema) that is not well controlled with prescription therapies used on the skin (topical), or who cannot use topical therapies. DUPIXENT can be used with or without topical corticosteroids. It is not known if DUPIXENT is safe and effective in children with atopic dermatitis under 12 years of age.