Doctor Says

Creams, moisturisers are key

The skin condition that you have described is a form of endogenous eczema.

Endogenous eczema is a chronic, relapsing skin condition with a strong genetic component.

People who have such a condition will notice that their skin is comparatively drier and tends to itch. They may also find that their family members have the same condition.

There will be times when the condition may flare up, leading to a red, angry rash that sometimes turns weepy. Common triggers include weather changes, stress and concurrent illnesses.

Endogenous eczema tends to flare up first at the flexures, such as the neck, in front of the elbow and behind the knee. However, any part of the body can be affected, including lips, scalp, arms and legs.

The aim of eczema management is to keep the condition as stable and as calm as possible, that is, to achieve minimal inflammation and flare-ups.

Anti-inflammatory creams and moisturisers are the key to long-term eczema control. Steroid cream is the most common type of anti-inflammatory cream used in eczema management. They come in different "strengths" and your doctor will select the most appropriate one for you.

For those who are concerned about the effects of long-term steroid cream use, there are also non- steroidal anti-inflammatory ointments. These are more expensive than steroid creams. If you are considering this option, you should discuss it with your doctor.

Moisturising forms the backbone of eczema treatment. There is a wide variety of moisturisers and lip balms in the market. It is important to select a deeply moisturising cream that suits your lifestyle. Your doctor may help you select the most appropriate moisturiser.

If the eczema keeps flaring up every few weeks, look out for any triggers that may be setting off these flare-ups.

You may also have to moisturise more frequently than you normally do during these periods.

The link between diet and eczema in adult eczema has not been well proven.

It is best to eat a well-balanced diet and to engage in a healthy lifestyle. No supplements have yet been shown to help individuals with eczema.

Dr Gavin Ong

Medical director and consultant dermatologist at The Skin Specialist, a Singapore Medical Group clinic.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2016, with the headline 'Creams, moisturisers are key'. Print Edition | Subscribe