Eczema: the neglected disease


According to ‘The Burden of Eczema – Evidence for a National Strategy’ report up to three million Australians, including one in three children aged 6 years or younger, are afflicted by eczema.

Eczema is a debilitating skin condition that causes severe pain, distress and sleep disruption, yet many sufferers are undertreated due to a nationwide shortage of dermatologists and a lack of training for general practitioners.

Melanie Funk, Managing Director at Eczema Support Australia says the ‘The Burden of Eczema – Evidence for a National Strategy’ report, which was Launched by Eczema Support Australia with support from the Australasian College of Dermatologists, “should act as an SOS call to government to establish a National Eczema Strategy to urgently address the suboptimal treatment of eczema”.

The report also reveals that adults with eczema are three times more likely to suffer depression than those without the condition. It reveals that more than one in five adults with eczema consider suicide, yet only three per cent of impacted adults report receiving information about psychological help from their GP.

What’s more, Australians incur up to $336 million in out-of-pocket costs for medical visits, plus a further $1.2 billion for medications, emollients, special food and clothing to manage eczema.

According to Eczema Support Australia, a recent survey reveals that three-quarters of Australians with eczema say their family is impacted financially by the condition, with many saying they use savings, borrow money, and spend less on food and other essentials to pay for eczema management.

“For a condition that is so common and requires such a high level of self-management, it is truly shocking there isn’t more support and education, and so many are lost in a treatment maze,” says Ms Funk.

“We desperately need a National Eczema Strategy in Australia to improve the lives of those struggling with the consequences of eczema, which include sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, headaches, and thousands of dollars of out-of-pocket costs from managing the condition.”

Dr Adriene Lee, President of the Australasian College of Dermatologists says “a coordinated response is needed” in eczema management.

“A coordination response will go a long way to ensuring all Australians with this condition have optimal and equitable access to treatment and care, which is why the College has no hesitation in supporting this report – and the evidence for a National Eczema Strategy,” says Dr Lee.

“The widespread underuse of topical corticosteroids due to ‘steroid phobia’ has long been a concern of the College but without a coordinated effort to change these perceptions using evidence-based information, Australians will continue to experience avoidable and unnecessary severe disease flares.

“As well as education and awareness raising for general practice and pharmacy, it is also critical to ensure access to specialist care by addressing the dermatology workforce shortage through federal and state investment in dermatology services and training,” she says.

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