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Eczema

Medical Dermatology

You get an itchy rash, and it's not the first time.

How
do you know
if you have
Eczema?

What is Eczema?

Eczema is an umbrella term for a range of conditions that cause red, itchy and inflamed skin. It is not contagious; rather, it results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors such as stress and prolonged exposure to an irritant. Eczema treatment is prescribed depending on its type, cause and symptoms manifested.

There are several forms of eczema, including:

  • Atopic Dermatitis – The most common and chronic type, it is characterized by dry, itchy and scaly patches on the skin susceptible to infection, wounds, crusting and oozing when scratched. Atopic dermatitis usually go hand in hand with asthma and hay fever (atopic triad).
  • Contact Dermatitis – This occurs when substances irritate the skin or cause an inflammatory reaction upon contact. It results in redness, blisters and a burning and itchy feeling, which goes away once the irritant is removed.
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis – This results in the formation of dandruff, yellow skin patches, and scaly rashes on oily parts of the body such as the scalp, face, chest and back.
  • Statis Dermatitis – Common in the elderly, rashes develop in the lower legs and result from the immune system’s overactive response to poor blood circulation.
  • Nummular Dermatitis – From the Latin word “nummus” which means coin, nummular dermatitis refers to dry, coin-shaped patches that appear on the skin usually during the winter months.
  • Dyshidrotic Eczema – More common in women, dyshidrotic eczema is characterized by the formation of fluid-filled blisters on the hands and feet.
  • Neurodermatitis – This type of eczema forms scaly patches that appear on the head, arms and legs caused by a localized itch.

Eczema affects both children and adults, but it is found to be more common among the Chinese and Malays than other races. In Singapore alone, one in five school-age children has eczema. In 50% of patients, eczema developed before the age of 10.

Causes of Eczema

Eczema can be attributed to a combination of factors such as:

  • Genetics – Eczema is found to run in the family. Those with relatives who have eczema are more likely to develop the condition.
  • Overactive Immune System – Much like an allergic reaction, eczema occurs when the body’s immune system triggers an inflammatory response when exposed to an irritant.
  • Skin Barrier Dysfunction – Defects in the skin’s natural protective layer allow environmental irritants or allergens to penetrate the skin and enter the body.
  • Exposure to Irritants – Coming into contact with or prolonged use of materials and chemicals like wool or man-made fibers, detergents, perfume, soaps, cosmetics, chlorine and other solvents may trigger a flare-up or worsen symptoms.
  • Environment – Stress, food, temperature, humidity levels and other pollutants also cause symptoms of eczema to develop.

Common signs & symptoms of Eczema

Eczema

Eczema

Eczema is typically characterized by:

  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Discolored skin patches
  • Rough, scaly or leathery rashes
  • Crusting or oozing
  • Open wounds

These symptoms are long-term in nature and they may recur after a period of apparent recovery. It is recommended that you see your skin doctor to discuss possible treatment methods that suit you best.

Complications of Eczema

Eczema may also trigger a set of complications, such as:

  • Asthma and Hay Fever – As part of the atopic triad, those who are diagnosed with atopic dermatitis are most likely to develop asthma and hay fever by the age of 13.
  • Chronic Itchy Skin – Eczema triggers a continuous itch-and-scratch cycle, which results in discolored, scaly and leathery skin.
  • Infections – Scratching the affected areas can lead to open wounds and sores susceptible to bacteria and viruses that target the skin.
  • Hand Eczema – This skin condition is job-related, with rashes developing on the hands due to the constant handling of substances such as disinfectants, detergents and other chemicals.
  • Sleep Problems – The itch-and-scratch routine typical in eczema negatively affects quality and quantity of sleep.

Medications & Therapies for Eczema

Eczema is a chronic skin condition with symptoms that may subside and recur. As of this time, there is no cure for this disease. However, eczema treatments help patients better manage symptoms and prevent them from worsening, as well as reducing recurrence rates and flare-ups.

Medications

If home treatments prove to be insufficient to provide relief for eczema, the doctor may prescribe medications, which include:

  • Topical Corticosteroid Creams – Typically available over the counter, these work to control itching by reducing skin inflammation.
  • Antibiotics – These are used to prevent or treat bacterial infections contracted through open wounds, sores and cracks on the affected skin.
  • Antihistamines – These can also help relieve uncontrollable itching and reduce rashes.
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs – These help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation, allowing the skin to heal. In more severe cases, corticosteroids are prescribed.

Therapies

Along with medications, eczema treatments in Singapore involve therapies, which are also effective in reducing symptoms and frequency of flare-ups.

  • Wet Dressings – The affected area is applied with topical corticosteroids before being wrapped in wet bandages. This is usually used to address chronic atopic dermatitis.
  • Light Therapy – The skin is exposed to controlled amounts of UVA and UVB to reduce itchiness and inflammation. It is suitable for those whose eczema is widespread and unresponsive to topical and oral treatments.

In some cases, bio-feedback and relaxation training are used to help the patient manage eczema symptoms more effectively. These are especially beneficial to reduce stress and the urge to scratch the skin.

Tips for better control of Eczema

At the moment, there is no cure for eczema. However, eczema treatments and lifestyle modifications play a key role in keeping it under control. Here are some tips which can be done at home:

  • Bathe or shower in lukewarm water.
  • After bathing, pat skin dry rather than rubbing the towel against the skin.
  • Keep your skin moisturized by applying moisturizer suitable for sensitive skin.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Avoid types of food most likely to trigger allergic reactions and worsen eczema symptoms.
  • Use mild soaps.
  • Keep your fingernails short in order to prevent wounds when skin is scratched.
  • Wear loose-fitting and 100% cotton clothing.
  • Reduce stress.
  • For very young children, it may be useful to wear mittens during sleep to prevent skin injuries due to unconscious scratching.

Led by MOH-accredited Singapore dermatologist Dr Cheong Lai Leng, LL Cheong Skin & Laser Clinic offers medical, surgical and aesthetic dermatology services to cater to every patient’s unique needs and condition. To schedule an appointment, call 6836-1480 today.

Dr Cheong La

Meet yourDermatologist

Our skin physician, Dr Cheong Lai Leng, is a Ministry of Health certified dermatologist who emphasizes an individualized approach to address your specific concerns whether they are medical, surgical, or cosmetic while maintaining the highest standards for quality and attention to your comfort.

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