My earliest conscious memory of disease and doctors was in the management of my atopic dermatitis. Here is Sam Shuster writing poetically about atopic dermatitis in ‘World Medicine’ in 1983.
A dozen years of agony; years of sleeplessness for child and parents, years of weeping, itching, scaling skin, the look and feel of which is detested.
The poverty of our treatments is made all the worse by the unfair raising of expectations: I don’t mean by obvious folk remedies; I mean medical folk remedies like the recent pseudoscientific dietary treatments which eliminate irrelevant allergens. There neither is nor ever was good evidence for a dietary mechanism. And as for cows’ milk, I would willingly drown its proponents in it. We have nothing fundamental for the misery of atopic eczema and that’s why I would like to see a real treatment—not one of those media breakthroughs, and not another of those hope raising nonsenses like breast-feeding: I mean a real and monstrously effective treatment. Not one of your P<.05 drugs the effect of which can only be seen if you keep your eyes firmly double-blind, I mean a straightforward here today and gone tomorrow job, an Aladdin’s salve—put it on and you have a new skin for old.
Nothing would please me more in the practice of clinical dermatology than never again to see a child tearing its skin to shreds and not knowing how long it will be before it all stops, if indeed it does.
Things are indeed better now, but not as much we need: we still don’t understand the itch nor can we easily block the neural pathways involved. Nor has anything replaced the untimely murder of ‘World Medicine’. A glass of milk has never looked the same since, either.