medical dermatology

What is eczema?

Eczema refers to a group of conditions that cause the skin to become red and itchy. In some cases, the skin may appear cracked, and blisters and scales may form. There are several forms of eczema, the most common being atopic dermatitis, which is common in children and is often accompanied by asthma or hay fever. Other types include contact dermatitis (allergic reactions) and dyshidrosis (blisters on hands and feet).

Treatment for Eczema
Eczema Treatment

What are the signs and symptoms of eczema?

Symptoms of eczema vary according to the type and the age of the person. Signs may start at infancy, with dry and itchy patches affecting the cheeks and scalp. The rashes may be so itchy that they interfere with sleep, and lead to bleeding and infections when constantly scratched.

Most symptoms of eczema develop during childhood (before the age of 5) and may persist up to adolescence and adulthood. It is important to note that no two cases of eczema are alike. The most common signs are:

  • Red, inflamed skin covering much of the body, including the elbows, knees, nape, neck, ankles, legs, wrists and buttocks.
  • Dry and sensitive skin
  • Rough, discolored, scaly or leathery patches of skin
  • Itchy and bumpy rashes
  • “Weeping”, oozing or crusting blisters
Most symptoms of eczema develop during childhood (before the age of 5) and may persist up to adolescence and adulthood

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Why am I experiencing eczema?

The exact cause of eczema is still unknown, but genetic factors are long thought to increase one’s risk of developing it. For instance, a child born to a parent or parents diagnosed with eczema or another atopic disease such as asthma and allergic rhinitis has a greater chance of also developing the skin condition.

Eczema is also believed to be triggered by environmental factors such as:

  • Allergens (pollen, dander, dust mites, mold)
  • Irritants (soaps, shampoos, detergents and disinfectants)
  • Microbes (viruses, bacteria, fungi)
  • Food (egg, dairy products, wheat, gluten, citrus fruits, nuts and seeds)
  • Extreme hot or cold temperatures, and high or low humidity
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Stress
eczema treatment for a girl with eczema
eczema treatment singapore - eczema flare-ups on hands

How is eczema diagnosed?

A physical inspection of the affected skin, assessment of symptoms and a medical history review are often enough for a dermatologist to diagnose eczema or other atopic illnesses.

No laboratory tests are necessary to diagnose eczema, though doctors may also order skin patch and blood tests to rule out other skin disorders, as well as determine which chemicals are triggering attacks and worsening flare-ups.

What are the treatment options for eczema?

There is no specific cure for eczema, though treatments are provided to help manage symptoms and episodes of flare-ups. These include taking prescribed medications recommended by our dermatologist, such as:

  • Topical or systemic corticosteroids – These have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce itchiness and skin inflammation. They are available in the form of a cream, an injection or pills.
  • Antibiotics – These are prescribed if the eczema is secondarily infected by bacteria.
  • Antihistamines – These oral medications help manage itch.
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors – These drugs such as tacrolimus and pimecrolimus suppress the skin immune system and help clear the eczema. They can also be used as long term maintenance therapy.
  • Oral cyclosporine
  • Phototherapy – narrow band ultraviolet B phototherapy is a safe treatment for atopic dermatitis and this is available at our clinic.
  • Biologics – Dupilumab, is the first biologic injection available in Singapore for treating severe atopic dermatitis. This is a fully human monoclonal antibody, that is effective for treatment of atopic dermatitis with minimal side effects and can be used alone and in combination with topical corticosteroids. It is available at our clinic.

What else can be done to prevent flare-ups?

The following tips can help reduce symptoms of eczema and prevent flare-ups:

  • Avoid food, chemicals and materials that trigger or worsen symptoms.
  • Keep the skin hydrated by applying eczema-friendly lotions and moisturizers.
  • Protect any cracked skin or wounds to prevent infections.
  • Avoid scratching or touching the affected skin.
  • Avoid sudden temperature and humidity fluctuations.
  • Reduce stress levels.
Our Dermatologists
Our team of dermatologists with a combined experience of more than 60 years provides a complete range of professional dermatological services to manage all varieties of skin problems affecting the skin, hair and nails and also sexually transmitted infections. They are equally adept at performing skin surgery and laser procedures.