How I Wish Dermatologists Would Handle Appointments with Eczema Patients

My name is Terry and I am from the Bay Area of California, USA. When I developed eczema at the age of 5, my life quickly became a series of dermatology visits that always led to the prescription of steroid creams and ointments.

The routine often went something like this:

  • Doctor: (Looks over my skin.) You have eczema.
  • Me: (Blank look.)
  • Doctor: Here’s a prescription for hydrocortisone.

Follow-up visit

  • Doctor: (Looks over my skin.) You still have eczema.
  • Me: (Nod)
  • Doctor: Here’s prescription for cortisone/prednisone/the latest steroid product on the market and a lifetime supply of refills so you don’t have to keep coming back here to renew your steroid prescription.
  • Me: (Thinking to myself: AKA “I approve of as many refills as you need! Even if you are not showing any improvement from them!”)

Same story different doctor

No matter how many different dermatologists I went to, it was the same story and often there was no other option they offered for treating eczema. Lifestyle advice like improving diet, stress management, or using safer skincare options were not even mentioned!

Luckily, I found my miracle worker in a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctor who also had a Ph.D. in Dermatology whose herbs and diet advice helped me detoxify my system and find relief.

While not everyone will have the same results I did using TCM, I at least wish that my experience before having to be forced to seek an “alternative” route to treating my skin was a better one. I wish that Western doctors were trained to be more compassionate and curious about how and why their patients’ skin conditions occur the way they do, so that they could offer more thoughtful and accurate prescriptions than just giving a default answer. And with certain drug companies being known to give doctors commissions and other perks to prescribing a certain quota of their drug to their patients, I am always left feeling somewhat skeptical about Western doctor prescriptions in general.

My version of a successful doctor’s appointment

If I could have it my way, this is how I would like an appointment with a Western dermatologist to go:

  • Doctor: How are you doing today?
  • Me: My skin is feeling very itchy and hot and when I scratch it, it breaks the skin and oozes very easily.
  • Doctor: When did this start?
  • Me: When I was 5, after using a dirty blanket sleeping over at a family friend’s house on the way to Disneyland.
  • Doctor: Do you notice if anything makes it feel better or worse?
  • Me: Not yet.
  • Doctor: I would advise you to write a journal and note any patterns of itchiness and try to avoid those. Also, how is your diet? What do you normally eat?
  • Me: Pizza, spaghetti, burgers, ice-cream, Snickers, etc.
  • Doctor: Those foods might be making your skin worse. Try adding more fruits and vegetables.

Just a little more compassion, curiosity, and the right questions can go a long way to preventing a lifetime of steroid addiction and disappointment.

In the meantime, I hope for a better future when it comes to eczema care!

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