Exit Eczema: A Dermatologist Guide To Relieving The Itch

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what is eczema singapore women scratching arm in bed
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Red scaly patches, severely dry skin, and intense itching. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, chances are, you have eczema. But fret not, you’re not alone. Eczema is a common skin condition in Singapore and other parts of the world. To better understand what is eczema, we consulted certified dermatologists for their expert insights on the matter. Find out everything you need to know about eczema in Singapore, including what triggers eczema, types of eczema, how eczema is treated, and more.

What is eczema?

what is eczema singapore scratching skin red itchy
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Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that causes dry, scaly, and itchy skin. According to Dr. Teo Wan Lin (TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre), eczema tends to be a chronic condition that starts from a young age and prevails into adulthood. The condition usually affects the elbows, knees, neck, and parts of the face as the skin in these areas is thinner and more prone to friction. Over time, prolonged scratching of these areas to relieve the itch may result in blisters as well as thickening and flaking of the skin. 

Eczema vs skin allergy

eczema on hand singapore itch
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Knowing what is eczema isn’t sufficient if you can’t identify the signs. It can be hard to differentiate between eczema and allergy rashes as both conditions have similar symptoms. We’ve included some tips below on how to better identify eczema vs allergy rashes. However, it is recommended to consult your dermatologist for more accurate information about your condition. 

Skin condition Eczema Skin allergy rash
Common symptoms
  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Intense and persistent itch
  • Red patches
  • Fluid leaking through the skin
  • Itch
  • Red patches
  • May be swollen or have blisters
Common causes
  • Immune system activation
  • Genetics
  • Environmental triggers
  • Stress
  • Skin deterioration due to age
  • Impaired skin barrier
  • Airborne allergens
  • Food allergy
  • Other types of allergens such as plants, insect bites, etc.
  • Infections
Occurrence Mostly occurring since a young age Sudden onset rash
Frequency Chronic, recurring Occurs when triggered by allergens
Common affected areas
  • Elbows
  • Knees
  • Neck
  • Face
Anywhere on body

What are the types of eczema?

dermatologist blue glove eczema in singapore
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While eczema in Singapore can typically be identified by common symptoms like dryness, itch, and red patches, it is important to know that there are different types of eczema so you can understand your symptoms and triggers better. According to Dermatology and Surgery Clinic, these are the most common types of eczema and their causes, symptoms, and ways to manage them. 

Types of eczema Common causes Common symptoms Who suffers from it? Ways to manage
Atopic dermatitis Hyper-reactive immune system to environmental stimuli
  • Itching, sore, painful skin
  • Dry, discoloured skin
  • Lichenification (thickening and hardening of the skin) due to continuous scratching
Babies under six months old and people with asthma or hay fever.
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Managing stress
  • Strengthening skin barrier through a regular cleansing and moisturizing routine
Contact dermatitis Skin irritation or allergic reaction to a substance
  • Itch
  • Burning sensation on the skin
  • Blistering
People whose lifestyle or profession involve daily contact with chemicals e.g. hairstylists and health care workers
  • Steroid prescription by board-certified dermatologists
  • Identifying and avoiding irritants and allergens
Seborrheic eczema Excessive growth of a type of yeast on oily parts of the skin such as the scalp, upper back, and groin area 
  • Dandruff 
  • Greasy scaling, redness, and swelling
Infants and adults between 30 – 60 years old
  • Washing affected areas daily with a gentle cleanser or medicated shampoo for the scalp
Asteatotic eczema Excessive dryness of skin due to environmental factors like cold weather, nutrient deficiencies, or underlying health conditions
  • Flaky, scaly, cracked skin
  • Inflamed skin
Elderly people and people in their 20s
  • Maintaining skin moisture using humidifiers and applying lotions
  • Avoid products with harsh ingredients 

What causes or triggers eczema?

To better manage eczema, pinpoint what has caused it and identify the triggers so that you can actively avoid them and prevent flare-ups. Here are the main causes and triggers of eczema in Singapore that dermatologists have pointed out. 

  • Air quality, dust mites, and the weather

bedsheet bed pillow cushion bedside
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What is the most common trigger for eczema? According to Dr. Teo, eczema is most commonly triggered or caused by environmental factors. For instance, due to the hot, humid weather, Singaporeans tend to stay in air-conditioned environments. This increases water loss and strips our skin of moisture, leading to an impaired skin barrier which can cause eczema or trigger it to flare up. In addition, Singapore’s hot weather may also indirectly exacerbate eczema as the heat also causes us to sweat more. Sweat contains urea lactate and minerals, which can irritate and dry out skin for people suffering from eczema.

Another environmental factor that triggers eczema outbreaks is exposure to dust mites, which are commonly found in blankets, couches, and carpets. They can damage and kill skin cells, causing inflammation and itching. To curb this, Dr. Teo recommends using a HEPA filter to reduce the amount of airborne particulate allergens in the environment.

  • Harsh soaps and lack of moisturizing

hand soap what is eczema trigger singapore
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Another common cause of eczema is the long-term use of drying soaps and detergents that contain harsh chemicals which can impair the skin barrier and irritate the skin. According to Dr. Patricia Yuen (Patricia Yuen Dermatology), this includes excessive usage of antibacterial soaps and sanitisers. This increases the risk of contact dermatitis which commonly occurs on the hands. The best soaps for eczema are soapless cleansers without harsh ingredients. Also, pay attention to moisturizing skin with fragrance-free moisturizers to repair the skin barrier. 

  • Stress and sleep quality

woman working on laptop at night eczema trigger what is eczema
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Aside from the climate and harsh chemicals, what are some other triggers for eczema? According to Dr. Yuen, heightened stress can trigger eczema as it causes the body to produce hormones like cortisol which can affect the immune system, causing inflammation to the skin. In the same vein, lack of sleep or poor sleep quality weakens the immune system and makes one more prone to flare-ups. The thing is, eczema disturbs sleep due to the itch – which is why it is important to find ways to manage and treat it.

  • Food allergies

mother feeding food to daughter child food allergy
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According to Dr. Teo, food allergy is a rare trigger for eczema that tends to only affect children below the age of four. If your child is below four and suffering from eczema, it is recommended to identify the specific trigger with a board-certified dermatologist.

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How to treat eczema?

  • Prescription of eczema-friendly cleansers and medical-grade moisturizers

eczema skincare in singapore dermatologist
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Wondering how is eczema treated in Singapore? Dermatologists including Dr. Yuen and Dr. Teo prescribe eczema-friendly cleansers such as soapless cleansers that prevent you from further stripping your skin’s natural oils. This is accompanied by medical-grade moisturizers which contain highly concentrated ingredients that deliver fast and effective results. These moisturizers help to restore your skin barrier, which is one of the ways to reduce flare-ups.
  • Steroid prescription depending on the condition

doctor patient what is eczema singapore
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Do steroids make eczema worse? This is a common question that people in Singapore with eczema have. Steroids have been associated with negative side effects such as thinning of the skin and withdrawals. However, Dr. Yuen assures patients that the use of steroids under the guidance of a dermatologist is safe, and a necessity for severe cases to control the condition. The use of steroids will eventually be tapered off to a non-steroid medicine during the maintenance phase. According to Dr. Kok Wai Leong (Dermatology & Surgery Clinic), topical steroids are but one of the many treatment options for eczema, and fixed routines and good skincare habits are still the cornerstones of eczema management. 

More ways to treat the eczema skin condition in Singapore

We hope this article has helped you understand eczema better so you can manage the condition more effectively. Apart from understanding what is eczema, knowing the products that work best with eczema skin can help to alleviate the condition. Check out the best eczema treatment products in Singapore that are recommended by dermatologists, including moisturizers, itch relief creams, and bodywash. A strong immune system is also vital to preventing eczema flare-ups. Keep your health in check with the best probiotic supplements in Singapore and the best healthy snacks in Singapore!

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