Aaron M. Drucker, M.D. specializes in general dermatology for adult patients and clinical research on atopic dermatitis at Brown University. In 2015, NEA awarded Dr. Drucker, a NEA Burden of Atopic Dermatitis grant to begin determining the true impact of atopic dermatitis on the lives of patients, their caretakers, and their families.
What does “burden of disease” mean and why is it important?
“Burden of disease” is a broad concept that includes the impact a disease has on the individual level and on the population level. It includes things like quality of life, time off work or school due to the disease, the cost for patients and their families to manage the disease, and the cost to the health care system, among other things. Burden of disease data is incredibly important as it demonstrates to health care practitioners and policymakers how much a disease affects those with the condition and the society at large. If a disease like eczema is shown to have a large “burden,” it can lead to increased resources being put into more eczema research and better care for patients.
Please explain for readers a little more about the following areas that factor into determining the burden of disease for atopic dermatitis?
1. Comorbid conditions
Patients with atopic dermatitis are more likely to have a variety of other medical conditions compared to people without atopic dermatitis. These associated conditions are called comorbidities and they include asthma, hayfever and food allergies, as well as obesity and certain mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
2. Quality of life impacts
Atopic dermatitis can affect people’s lives in many ways, from disturbed sleep to embarrassment about the way their skin looks to limitations in physical activities, and much more.
3. Impact on the family
Not only does atopic dermatitis affect the quality of life of patients, but it can also adversely affect the family unit. Caregivers of children with atopic dermatitis may need to devote considerable time and money caring for them. Caregivers and partners of children and adults with atopic dermatitis, respectively, can also experience sleep disruptions. If patients limit their social or physical activities, that can limit the rest of the family as well. All of this can lead to significant cost and stress for a family unit.
4. Impact on health care
Atopic dermatitis is a condition that often requires the use of significant health care resources. Patients may visit their health care providers, both general practitioners and dermatologists, many times a year. Patients must buy medication on an ongoing basis to keep their atopic dermatitis under control and manage flares. Severe atopic dermatitis flares and infected skin sometimes require visits to the emergency room or stays in the hospital.
5. Impact on society/economic impact
The costs of atopic go beyond what patients, insurance companies and others spend directly on treating eczema. When patients miss work or school because they are having an eczema flare, that has an impact. When patients can’t concentrate on their work because they didn’t get a good night’s sleep or their itch is distracting, that has an impact.
How can burden of disease data help people with atopic dermatitis, clinicians and researchers?
Burden of disease data can provide context for patients and their families. It can demonstrate to them that their experience is shared with others across the country and across the world and that their experience coping with atopic dermatitis is acknowledged by the medical and scientific community. More importantly, demonstrating that atopic dermatitis has a significant burden will lead to increased resources to care for patients and to fund research to better treat atopic dermatitis.
Burden of disease data helps clinicians better understand what their patients are experiencing. This allows clinicians to better communicate with their patients and to provide care better suited to their needs.
Burden of disease data is important for researchers to understand the scope of the disease. It also demonstrates the importance of atopic dermatitis within medicine and society, which can lead to increased attention and improved funding for atopic dermatitis research.
How did you get interested in eczema? Why do you find this disease of particular interest?
Eczema is a skin disease that has a major impact on patients and their families. It is very satisfying to care for patients with eczema and see the difference that can be made with treatment. From a research perspective, it is incredibly interesting as it is a very common disease with many questions left to be answered about it. The field is changing rapidly and as a result, we expect more exciting new treatments for eczema in the near future.
Read: NEA funds Burden of Atopic Dermatitis Grant