Atopic dermatitis (AD) is common among infants and young children but for some, it can continue into adolescence. For 19-year-old Ashvini, her condition peaked at 15 years, making it difficult to even leave the home at times. Through it all, mom Gouri has been a stalwart companion, demonstrating the importance of family support in managing AD.
Hoping for the best
Ashvini was around two years old when she was diagnosed with AD, recalls mom Gouri. Apart from prescribing steroid creams, the doctor said it would likely subside as she grew older. As the episodes came and went over the years, Ashvini’s parents were not overly concerned.
However, far from subsiding, things abruptly got worse.
“When she was 15 years old, her condition erupted. It appeared all over her body and affected her face as well,” explained Gouri. “I’m glad she had finished her O levels before it got worse, because for the next two years she spent her days at home, covered up because her skin would be so painful when it was exposed to the air. She couldn’t even go to school and sometimes the shedding would be so bad I would have to sweep the floor three times a day.”
The severity of Ashvini’s symptoms meant it wasn’t possible for her to attend social or family gatherings. On such occasions, Gouri would stay home with Ashvini so she wouldn’t have to stay home by herself.
Seeking ways to help her daughter, Gouri sought out traditional remedies at first, such as ayurvedic therapy and homeopathy. However, there was little relief to be had.
“For two years, we followed the ayurvedic therapy and kept Ashvini on a vegetarian diet, with no dairy or even eggs. But even so, it didn’t get better. We would just end up back at square one,” said Gouri.
For Ashvini, “it was mostly painful and itchy. I just wanted it to end. It’s a bit hard to explain, over and over, why you can’t go out. Thankfully, my friends are quite understanding and didn’t treat me any differently. Sometimes, since I couldn’t go out, they would come and visit me instead.”
Finally, an uncle, a consultant dermatologist based in Kuching, suggested they meet with another consultant dermatologist here who was able to recommend a comprehensive course of treatment.
“I was using steroid creams for three months before my dermatologist prescribed oral medications for me which I took for a year. At first, there was an improvement but then it came back,” explained Ashvini.
As previous types of therapy had failed to adequately manage her symptoms, Ashvini was then recommended to try a new treatment called biologic therapy. Recently approved for adolescents, it helps to reduce the inflammation that triggers AD flare-ups, with improvement in as little as a month, though experts advise that it may take up to 12 months for the skin to recover.
Since February, Ashvini has seen a consistent reduction in symptoms.
“Compared to what it was previously, with the shedding and oozing and bleeding, I don’t have such bad days anymore. I just need to keep up my daily routine of applying moisturiser after I bathe. I also have to keep using the steroid cream on certain areas where my skin has thickened because of all the past flare-ups,” says Ashvini.
Speaking on behalf of parents, Gouri added, “It can be very challenging to look after a child with AD.
We tried so many things but it always came back, and we saw that some parents went to drastic lengths to find a solution. But it’s important not to give up hope because there are things that can help. We are very thankful for the Consultant Dermatologist who has been very supportive and understanding. He gave us hope and now Ashvini is so much better.”
With the AD more controlled and having just finished her A levels, Ashvini has much to look forward to. “I used to have to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, now I can wear whatever I want. I can hang out with my friends more and enjoy sleepovers, which I have not been able to do before,” said Ashvini. “Basically, I feel so relieved and happy now that my AD is well controlled.”