Friday, March 29, 2013

San Diego meeting on how to measure itch

If you're one of my seven followers, you might have noticed that I haven't posted much recently. Let me rephrase: you haven't noticed me at all. There are several reasons for this. In November I messed up my shoulder in a bike accident, and the subsequent rehab has taken most of my spare time. Since December, the demands of my job have gotten more intense. And of late my eczema has flared up, making me pessimistic and cranky.

Ironically my interest in writing about eczema is inversely proportional to how bad I have it. Right now, I just want eczema to go away. I don't want to read research papers.

What you might like to know is that the weekend of April 6-7 I'll be traveling to San Diego to take part in a mini-conference called "HOME." I'm going to be a patient representative. It's like my coming-out party--I've never publically advertised my eczema in person before.

"HOME" stands for "harmonising outcome measures for eczema." The project is driven by Hywel Williams at the University of Nottingham in the UK and Jochen Schmitt at the University of Dresden in Germany. I have no idea why they might want to come to southern California this time of year.

What Williams and Schmitt are doing is to develop a universal scale to measure how bad you have eczema. In the past many studies have been done on eczema patients, investigating how they respond to different treatments--whether they improve or get worse--but not many of these studies have used standard measures of eczema severity. And the existing measures (e.g. the "visual analogue scale," in which you mark on a line from 1 to 10 how itchy you feel) are far from ideal.

So next weekend I'll get to meet with a bunch of leading scientists and hopefully be of some use in developing ways to measure itch and eczema. I'll let you know how it turns out.