Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis: Questions to Ask Your Doctor

While your doctor usually asks the questions during an office visit, you can take charge by asking your physician the right questions. Being proactive can make a big difference in the way you’re able to manage your eczema or atopic dermatitis. Your health is important both to you and to your doctor, so don’t hesitate to ask questions about your diagnosis, medications, complementary or alternative therapies, emotional issues, financial concerns about your treatment, or diet or lifestyle matters.

Engaging in a dialogue with your doctor will educate you about your skin condition and the treatment options available to you, and it’ll give your doctor a better sense of who you are and how eczema or atopic dermatitis is affecting your health and your life. With the lines of communication open, you and your doctor will be able to develop the best treatment plan for your individual needs.

But remember, your time with your doctor is limited, so be sure to arrive at your appointment prepared to ask the questions that are important to you. Start by:

  • Researching eczema. It’s a good idea to get a better understanding of your skin condition before your appointment. Through research, you may even be able to answer some of your own questions. Visit ishonest's Skin and Beauty Center, the American Academy of Dermatology, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, and MedlinePlus.
  • Strategizing. Your family doctor may not be able to answer all your questions about eczema or atopic dermatitis; some may be better addressed by a doctor who specializes in treating eczema. Discuss this with your doctor, and follow up with a visit to a specialist, as directed by your doctor. You can also do additional research of your own.
  • Keeping records. Consider keeping a journal about your skin condition between visits to the doctor, and share any relevant information with your doctor — for example, changes in your symptoms or the effectiveness of your medications. Additionally, taking notes during your appointments will help you remember important details after your visit.

General Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis Questions

If your doctor determines that you have eczema or atopic dermatitis, he or she will recommend a course of treatment to relieve the itchy rashes and other symptoms related to your condition. You'll probably have some additional questions and concerns about coping with eczema or atopic dermatitis. Consider asking your doctor the following:

  • What is eczema? Is it contagious?
  • What is the relationship between eczema and atopic dermatitis?
  • Are there different types of eczema? How is eczema diagnosed?
  • What causes eczema?
  • Can eczema affect any part of my body?
  • What are the best treatments for eczema?
  • Can eczema be cured?
  • Can eczema be controlled with diet?
  • Does the sun have any effect on eczema?
  • Can eczema cause other complications?
  • Should I change my skin care regimen for eczema during the summer or winter?
  • Should I make any other changes to the way I care for my skin?
  • What should I do if my eczema or atopic dermatitis symptoms worsen?
  • How can I curb my itching?
  • What is the difference between eczema and psoriasis? Is it possible to have both at the same time?
  • Can eczema lead to any other skin conditions? Can scratching my eczema cause infections, such as a staph infection?
  • Are there specialists I should consider seeing, such as a dermatologist?

Medications and Treatments for Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis

Treatments for eczema and atopic dermatitis vary depending on the severity of the condition. If your doctor prescribes medication, ask about the medication, read the insert the pharmacy includes with your prescription, and take the medication as directed. Knowing how your medication is supposed to work will help you evaluate its effectiveness and whether it’s the right medication for you. Here are some questions you may want to ask your doctor about eczema and atopic dermatitis medications:

  • Do I need medication, or can I be treated effectively without it?
  • Are cortisone creams safe? Are they right for me?
  • What type of drug are you prescribing for me, and how does it work?
  • Is it a topical medication like a cream, or is it a pill?
  • Where can I get more information about this drug?
  • How often and for how long will I need to take this medication?
  • Is there a medication that I can take on an as-needed basis, such as when I experience an outbreak?
  • Are there any natural alternatives to the prescription medication?
  • When can I expect to notice improvements in my skin?
  • What are the risks if I don’t take my medication as directed, or if I forget to take it?
  • What should I do if I forget to take my medication?
  • Has this medication been tested in people with my type of skin condition? Are there any recent research studies on it?
  • Will I need to have blood tests or other monitoring while I’m taking the medication?
  • What should I do if I experience any side effects? Are there any that may require me to call a doctor? Are there any that may require me to stop taking the medication immediately?
  • Is this drug habit-forming?
  • Can I take this on an empty stomach, or should it be taken with food?
  • Could this medication interact with other medications I’m taking?
  • Are there any foods, drinks (such as alcohol), vitamins, herbal supplements, or over-the-counter drugs that I should avoid while taking this medication?
  • Can other conditions affect or be affected by my medication?
  • Is it safe for me to use this medication if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?
  • Could I benefit from phototherapy (also known as light therapy), climatotherapy, or hydrotherapy? How do these therapies work? Are they safe and effective?

Emotional Health

In addition to affecting your face and body, skin conditions like eczema and atopic dermatitis can take a toll on your emotional health. The painful, itchy, and unsightly areas of skin can damage self-esteem and cause feelings of depression, anger, frustration, and embarrassment. Your doctor can help you find ways to cope with your feelings, manage your symptoms, and handle the impact your skin condition is having on your emotional well-being. Ask for a referral to a counselor, psychotherapist, or support group, and find out what else you can do to improve your emotional health while living with eczema or atopic dermatitis:

  • If stress seems to trigger symptoms, are relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, meditation, and biofeedback training, effective?
  • How should I explain my condition to my spouse, family, and friends? What, if anything, should I say to my boss and co-workers?
  • Are my children likely to end up with eczema or atopic dermatitis?
  • What should I do if I feel I’m being discriminated against at work or school?
  • How is my condition likely to affect my relationships, and what can I do to improve my situation?

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

In addition to any lifestyle changes and primary treatments your doctor recommends, you may consider complementary or alternative treatments for eczema or atopic dermatitis. Ask your doctor whether any of these options might be beneficial for you:

  • Are there any complementary or alternative therapies I should consider?
  • Could acupuncture benefit my eczema?
  • Do any research studies show that complementary or alternative therapies for psoriasis actually work?
  • Do you recommend any herbs or other supplements — such as aloe vera, fish oil, capsaicin cream, or probiotics?
  • Are there any foods or supplements I should avoid?

Health and Lifestyle Concerns

Participating in a physical fitness regimen, eating a balanced diet, getting adequate rest and sleep, quitting smoking, moderating alcohol consumption, and avoiding substance abuse can all contribute to your overall health and may have a direct affect on your eczema or atopic dermatitis symptoms. Check with your doctor to see whether any lifestyle changes might help you better manage your skin condition:

  • Do I need to make any changes in diet or exercise or how much I rest?
  • Would exercising more make my eczema worse, or would it help improve it?
  • Would losing weight be advantageous?
  • Can drinking alcohol, smoking, or using drugs affect my condition?
  • Can climate affect my eczema? Should I consider moving?
  • Are there any changes I can make around my home to help my skin, such as turning down the heat, using a humidifier, installing soft water, or bathing myself or my pets more frequently?
  • Can you recommend any books, magazines, organizations, or online resources that focus on eczema or atopic dermatitis?

Financial Health

The costs associated with your eczema or atopic dermatitis treatment may affect your finances. It’s crucial to find ways to balance your physical health with your financial health. Ask your doctor about ways in which you may be able to offset the cost of your treatment, and follow up with a representative from your insurance company, as necessary:

  • Will my eczema medication be covered by my health insurance plan?
  • About how much will my medication cost?
  • Is there a generic version of the medication that would be more affordable? If not, are there other, equally effective medications that are available as generics?
  • Do you have any samples or discount coupons for my prescription?
  • If I choose a complementary or alternative therapy, is it likely to be covered by my insurance? If not, what kind of out-of-pocket costs can I expect?
  • What are my options if I don’t have health insurance?

Read more on: beauty, skin, eczema