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Depression 'higher among patients with atopic dermatitis'

Depression and anxiety is more commonly diagnosed in patients suffering atopic dermatitis than among the rest of the US population, a recent survey by the National Eczema Association (NEA) suggests. October is Eczema Awareness Month, during which the NEA is highlighting the impact of eczema on patients and the mental health issues many suffer as a result. 

The NEA survey polled 545 people with the condition and found more 30 percent of patients with atopic dermatitis had been diagnosed with either depression or anxiety, compared to the national average of 7.6 percent estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Around 15 million adults in the US have atopic dermatitis, a condition caused by a malfunction in the immune system and problems with the skin barrier. Symptoms include inflammation and a rash that makes the skin dry, scaly and itchy, which forms on the face, scalp, or other areas of the body. 

Julie Block, president and chief executive officer of the NEA, commented: "Research reveals this form of eczema goes well beyond what you see on the skin. Chronic inflammation, symptoms such as unbearable itch, being severely allergic to the world around you - these all profoundly affect the quality of life of people with atopic dermatitis."

Treatment of eczema depends on the severity of each case. Over-the-counter options are available at local pharmacies, including topical treatments such as hydrocortisone cream, medicated shampoos, and moisturizers. However, in more severe cases, prescription medication is also available. 

Topical corticosteroids are one of the most common drug classes prescribed to patients with atopic dermatitis. These range from more potent varieties, such as Clobex (clobetasol propionate), to milder formulations such as Synacort Cream (hydrocortisone). Other medicines used to treat atopic dermatitis include topical calcineurin inhibitors, such as Protopic (tacrolimus) or Elidel (pimecrolimus), and topical PDE4 inhibitors, such as Eucrisa (crisaborole). 

One of the latest medications for treating eczema is Dupixent (dupilumab), which gained US Food and Drug Administration approval in March 2017. The subcutaneous injectable drug is intended for patients whose eczema is not adequately controlled with existing topical therapies, or for patients for whom topical treatments are not feasible. It works by inhibiting the action of a protein that causes inflammation and plays an important role in the development of atopic dermatitis.