Adults with eczema too often suffer in silence

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Peter Moffat, creator of Criminal Justice, is diminishing the stigma of atopic dermatitis by raising awareness of this disease.

Peter Moffat knows well the everyday struggles of living with atopic dermatitis (AD), the most common type of eczema. Now he’s using his celebrity status to raise awareness of these struggles so that fewer people suffer in silence.

Before he was the award-winning writer of the British TV series Criminal Justice, Moffat was a lawyer in the United Kingdom. Throughout his legal career, he suffered in silence with severe AD.

Hiding AD sometimes feels like the only option

Like many people who have severe AD, Moffat hid his eczema from others.

When in public, he tried to secretly scratch the unstoppable itch. Because his eczema often flares on his feet, he’d furtively stick a pencil underneath his socks and scratch.

His frequent scratching still leads to open wounds. In a recent interview with the Academy of Dermatology (AAD), Moffat told us, “My skin often looks like cornflakes mashed up with some blood.”

Moffat also spoke about how isolated AD can make him feel. “When someone notices your eczema and quickly moves away, it’s hurtful,” he said.

Even today with his celebrity status, he still experiences this firsthand when he rides the Tube, London’s subway. He says, “It feels especially hurtful when parents notice my skin and steer their kids away from me.”

Writing helped him speak out about AD

His experiences with AD led him to create a character for Criminal Justice who has severe eczema. Ralph Stone is a lawyer.

Like Moffat, Stone has severe AD on his feet. Stone, however, doesn’t hide the fact that he has eczema.

When viewers first meet Stone, he’s walking into a police station to represent a new client accused of murder. Stone is wearing Velcro sandals. His feet are wrapped in gauze.

Upon entering his client’s holding cell, Stone raises one of his feet and matter-of-factly says, “My doctor tells me to aerate my eczema.”

The success of Criminal Justice led to the creation of an HBO series in the United States called The Night Of. Moffat is the executive producer of this series, which features lawyer John Stone.

Like his British counterpart, John Stone doesn’t hide his eczema. The eczema plays such a prominent role in this show that Moffat says someone tweeted, “The Night Of is a story about a guy with eczema and a murder subplot.”

Moffat told the AAD, “I love this tweet because it feels like such a victory for raising awareness of eczema.”

To continue raising awareness, Moffat recently used his talents to co-produce short films that paint a vivid, memorable picture of the everyday struggles that people living with severe AD face. You see firsthand the effects due to lack of sleep, the irresistible urge to scratch, and the isolation.

These films are the centerpiece of a disease awareness program called, Understand AD: A Day in the Life, which launched in October during National Eczema Awareness Month.

By educating people, Moffat hopes fewer people living with AD will suffer in silence.

Speaking up can help diminish the stigma

He believes it’s really important to speak up and encourages others to join him. “If everyone could look at this [AD] in a normal way that would be fantastic,” says Moffat. “Only then can we diminish the stigma.”

Increasing awareness requires everyone’s help

The AAD supports Moffat’s efforts to raise awareness of AD and reduce the stigma. The more people speak up, the more comfortable and knowledgeable others become.

The AAD encourages you to ask yourself, “What can I do to raise awareness of AD?”

If you have AD, you might explain to someone who is staring at your skin that you have eczema. Like Ralph Stone, you could matter-of-factly say that it’s eczema and that eczema is not contagious.

If speaking up like that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s understandable. You can still have an impact. You could tweet about Moffat’s new campaign. You could share this article on social media.

Working together, we can reduce the stigma. And that could mean fewer people who have AD suffer in silence.

Image courtesy of Understand AD