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Campaign turns landmarks blue this November to shed light on what it’s like to live with eczema

For years, Mike Lanigan couldn’t sleep through the night. He was incessantly itchy and suffered poor mental health because of his appearance. As a child he was diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, a common but chronic condition also known as eczema. Despite trying everything from diet changes to creams, he didn’t find anything that helped.

He also never “grew out of it,” as many doctors and specialists had assured his parents he could.

“What makes it such a complex condition is there’s a lot of people that can have seasonal eczema, or contact irritation, hand eczema, things like that,” says Lanigan, who works in insurance in Toronto. “I got atopic dermatitis in the most severe way. We just weren’t there with treatment options when I was growing up.”

This November, the Eczema Society of Canada (ESC) hopes to highlight more stories like Lanigan’s during Eczema Awareness Month.

That’s why ESC is spearheading a campaign called Shining a Light on Eczema, in which monuments and landmarks across Canada will light up blue throughout the month to raise awareness and mark the impact of eczema and atopic dermatitis on patients and their families.

In partnership with ESC, we learn more about Lanigan’s story and why the Shining a Light campaign matters to him and other Canadians with eczema.

READ MORE: ‘Itchy, horrible’: Canadians living with eczema share what it’s really like

A common but misunderstood condition

To Lanigan, the Shining a Light campaign means confidence. He says it wasn’t until he hit rock bottom and signed up for a clinical trial in his twenties that he finally found relief.

From there, he learned about ESC, found his community and started volunteering with the organization, helping to spread awareness.

“This is a legitimate condition, and the general public is undereducated on the level of impact this has on hundreds of thousands of Canadians,” he says. “But we have a bright future. There’s not just despair — there’s a lot of great work being done to help treat this effectively, and I’m a great example of that.”

According to ESC executive director Amanda Cresswell-Melville, this campaign is important in driving home the message that eczema is an often underestimated condition that is much more than dry or itchy skin. It can flare up as painful rashes that can ooze, crack and bleed, affecting all aspects of life for those who have it.

“People underestimate the quality-of-life impact, the pain, the impact on family members,” she says. “Atopic dermatitis and eczema can impact everything from sleep to social life, to work productivity to attention at school.”

READ MORE: ‘It was really bad’: How eczema affected one woman’s skin and how she coped

What Shining a Light means to Canadians with eczema

Cresswell-Melville says that coming together is an essential way to spread awareness of eczema’s impact. She’s been involved with ESC for the past decade and says she has seen medical advancements and general education around eczema grow.

This campaign, however, is an opportunity to further amplify the condition and help those suffering to feel supported. Throughout the first two weeks of November, participating monuments in cities across Canada, including monuments in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador, will light up blue. Eczema Society of Canada has been securing these lightings over the past year, and Cresswell-Melville says many were pleased to participate.

“It’s really touching and inspiring that these monuments are willing to light up blue to support eczema awareness month, and it makes us feel seen and heard.”

ESC invites those who want to participate to visit the monuments and share their experience using the hashtag #ShiningALightOnEczema. Click here for a full list of participating monuments and to learn more about how you can help.

For more information on eczema and patient resources, visit the Eczema Society of Canada, and don’t forget to check out #ShiningALightOnEczema in early November.

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