Half of eczema sufferers in Singapore have condition for life, survey finds

Researchers surveyed 681 people and found that 21 per cent of children and 11 per cent of adults have eczema. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Half of eczema sufferers in Singapore have the skin condition throughout their lives, a study has found.

Researchers surveyed 681 people and found that 21 per cent of children and 11 per cent of adults have eczema. Hot weather, dusty environments and physical exercise are the most common trigger factors.

"This study is significant because for the first time, we have population-based figures for adults and the elderly," said Adjunct Professor Steven Thng, a senior consultant dermatologist at the National Skin Centre (NSC). "Previously, we only had data for schoolgoing children."

He added that such information will help the healthcare sector plan ahead and commit resources to treat, research, and prevent such conditions.

The study was carried out by a team of medical students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2015 and the results have been published in the British Journal of Dermatology. The students were supervised by experts from various institutions, such the NSC, KK Women's and Children's Hospital, and the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.

On Friday (Sept 14), Prof Thng also revealed that the number of adult eczema patients at the NSC has fallen from 1,609 in 2013 to 1,072 last year.

He said that this could be because milder cases are being better managed in the community. For example, telemedicine is saving some patients a trip to the clinic - freeing up NSC doctors' time for more severe cases, Prof Thng added.

One person who has struggled with eczema from childhood is 28-year-old Justinian Liew, who was diagnosed with the condition when he was around two.

On days when his condition flares up, he bleeds when he is sleeping or moving around. He has also had to deal with insensitive comments from people who saw his flaky skin.

"I once overheard a few classmates commenting something close to: 'His skin is disgusting; I don't know how his girlfriend stands being with him,'" recalled Mr Liew, who works as an account executive and video editor for a public relations firm.

He started wearing a jacket to hide his skin, and the habit has persisted even though his condition has improved.

"It is not a great feeling to have to deal with the physical discomfort of eczema, and have people judge you for it," Mr Liew said.

The NSC is organising a public forum on eczema on Oct 27.

Those who wish to learn more can visit goo.gl/J2FUsT

Correction note: The article has been edited to clarify who conducted the study.

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