To help you make the most of your time with your doctor, Gladskin reached out to dermatologists around the country and compiled a list of what they wished all their eczema patients could bring to or do before an appointment. Here’s what they had to say, including a list of top questions to ask your dermatologist about eczema, a rundown of what information to gather, and a brief overview of what to expect from your visit.
How to Prepare for Your Dermatology Appointment
Let’s face it: No matter how wonderful your dermatologist is, scheduling and going to a doctor’s appointment for your eczema is never going to be one of your favorite things to do. But with a little preparation, your dermatology appointment can be efficient and productive. Here’s how:
1. Bring an overview of your medical history, including records
When most people think of “medical history,” they think of family medical conditions. Your doctor may ask about a family history of eczema, allergies, or asthma (commonly known as the atopic triad), but there’s a lot more than goes into understanding your medical history.
- A history of your skin’s flare-ups
- Any pathology or lab reports
- A list of medications you take for your skin
- A list of skin care products that you use
When putting together your skin health history, Dr. Patricia Espinosa of My Psoriasis Team recommends writing down any information you remember regarding the onset of your eczema, including “when [it] first appeared and any symptoms that you may have encountered before and during the course of the disease.”
Additionally, try to make note of whether “you have any allergies to food, medications, or any substances that may have stimulated or aggravated this allergic reaction.” Doing so can help your dermatologist identify potential allergens and triggers that may worsen your eczema.
2. Prepare and organize pictures of your skin & products
Taking pictures of your skin is a great way to track the frequency of flare-ups and the way your skin condition has changed over time. They can be especially useful if your skin isn’t in the middle of a flare-up on the date of your actual appointment.
Dr. Erum N. Ilyas, CEO & Founder of AmberNoon, suggests organizing your photos into albums to make them easier to share with your doctor during an appointment.
She says having the following albums saved in your phone can save you and your dermatologist a lot of time:
- Spots and rashes
- Skincare products
“Patients routinely spend unnecessary time in the room searching through photos to find the picture of the spot they were worried about,” Dr. Ilyas explains.
These albums can also help supplement what Dr. Ilyas refers to as your “digital memory,” making it easier to recall product names and specifics. “There are so many variations of products even within brands,” Dr. Ilyas says. “By taking photos, care can be taken to avoid redundant prescriptions or wasting money.”
3. Understand the most useful way to “present” your skin
Since dermatologists often perform a physical examination of your skin during the appointment, it’s important that your skin is in a state in which they can more easily make assessments.
For this reason, Dr. Espinosa says that “it is best not to put any topicals (like creams, ointments, oils or lotions) on affected areas” right before your appointment.
She also recommends that patients “do not remove scales, crusts, rub or pick on the area before going to the clinic” because doctors “want to see the rash or the lesion in its usual state.”
Finally, if you have eczema on your face or eczema on your hands, Dr. Moore recommends that you “remove all makeup and nail polish for general exams.”
By following these steps, you make it easier for your dermatologist to come up with a more accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
4. Answer questions about diet and alcohol consumption honestly
While these topics can be hard for some to discuss, Dr. Nadir Qazi, DO, a board-certified physician and owner of Qazi Cosmetic Clinic, stresses that it’s important to “be open and honest about your diet and alcohol consumption, as they factor heavily into the condition of your skin, hair, and nails.”
Remember: It’s a doctor's job to treat you, not to judge you. To treat your eczema effectively, they need all information relevant to your skin’s health. If you ever feel judged by a dermatologist, give a competitor your business instead.
Setting Expectations: What Will Happen At Your Appointment
What will a dermatologist do for eczema?
Depending on where you are on your treatment journey and the severity of your symptoms, your dermatologist may do some or all of the following during your appointment:
Perform a physical exam: Your dermatologist will look closely at the affected areas to determine symptom severity and condition types.
Request a medical history: Your dermatologist will likely ask for information about the history of your condition and symptoms. They may also request specifics about your family’s medical history, including whether there is a family history of allergies, asthma, or eczema.
Perform tests: Your doctor may conduct a skin biopsy and remove a small section of skin for testing in order to confirm your diagnosis. If your doctor suspects allergies may be contributing to your eczema, they may recommend patch testing to determine whether or not you have allergic contact dermatitis.
Provide a diagnosis: Your dermatologist will help diagnose whether or not you have eczema and help determine which of the seven types of eczema you have. There are other conditions with symptoms that resemble eczema, and your doctor may need to rule these out.
Discuss triggers and care: After a thorough evaluation, your dermatologist will provide instructions on how to care for your eczema, discuss potential triggers to avoid, and provide guidance on how to monitor the health of your skin.
Recommend a Treatment: Depending on findings, your dermatologist may recommend OTC products or prescribe topical creams, oral medications, or other types of treatment. Your treatment plan will be highly specific to your skin’s needs.
Questions to Ask Your Dermatologist About Eczema
Whether it’s your first time discussing your eczema with a dermatologist or your tenth, it’s always a smart idea to bring a list of eczema questions you wish to ask to your appointment.
These are some of the best questions you can ask after your doctor has shared their assessment of your skin’s condition. Their answers will depend on the severity of your eczema and your known triggers.
1. Do I need to avoid certain types of soaps, lotions, or detergents? If so, what types would you recommend?
Ingredients in many types of soaps, lotions, and detergents can trigger eczema. Your doctor may pinpoint certain products to avoid using in your home and make recommendations for their replacement. In general, it’s best to look for fragrance-free products with fewer ingredients that are labeled as safe for people with sensitive or eczema-prone skin.
2. Are my pets making my eczema worse?
Based on the results of a patch test, your dermatologist should be able to tell you if you are allergic to pet dander and whether or not your pets are making your eczema worse. If your beloved animals are, in fact, contributing to your eczema, your dermatologist can recommend strategies for how to reduce your exposure to pet dander within your home.
3. Are there any types of food that I should avoid?
There is some evidence that certain foods can contribute to the inflammation that causes eczema. Depending on where your dermatologist stands on this topic, they may recommend making changes to your diet or refer you to a dietician or nutritionist.
Learn more about the potential link between diet and eczema.
4. Should I avoid fabrics and fabric blends that trap heat?
Some fabrics and fabric blends, particularly synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon, trap heat. Wearing clothing or sleeping in bedding made of those fabrics increases the likelihood that you’ll sweat. Since sweat can trigger or worsen eczema symptoms, your dermatologist may recommend that you avoid these types of fabrics and opt for breathable fabrics like cotton, bamboo, Tencel, linen, or silk instead.
5. If sweat is making my eczema worse, do I need to avoid exercise?
Since sweat can trigger and exacerbate eczema symptoms, it can be difficult for people with eczema to exercise. Your doctor may recommend that you take steps to reduce the impact of sweat by exercising indoors in air conditioning, avoiding restrictive clothing, taking breaks, and reducing the intensity of your exercise.
Learn more about how to exercise and avoid eczema flares.
6. Is stress contributing to my eczema flare-ups?
Stress can increase your body’s production of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol suppresses the immune system, creating an inflammatory response. If you are experiencing high levels of stress, let your dermatologist know, and discuss whether they think stress could contribute to your eczema.
Learn more about the relationship between eczema and stress.
7. Can I moisturize my skin with over-the-counter products, or will you prescribe something?
Depending on the severity of your eczema, your dermatologist may recommend OTC eczema moisturizers in addition to providing you with a topical prescription. They may also recommend other types of treatment, including oral medications, biologics, phototherapy, etc.
8. If my symptoms don’t improve or if I get an infection, what should I do?
Any time you visit your dermatologist, make sure that you leave knowing what the next steps should be if your symptoms persist or worsen. These instructions should include whether or not you should temporarily discontinue treatment. If you believe you have an infection, reach out to your healthcare provider immediately.
9. What types of preventative measures can I take to avoid new or worsening flare-ups?
Your dermatologist should inform you about preventative measures that can provide you with relief from eczema symptoms in both the short and long term. Depending on the specifics of your skin health, these may span everything from small tweaks (like patting yourself dry after a shower instead of rubbing) to making major lifestyle changes.
Questions to Ask Your Dermatologist About Eczema
You should see a doctor if your eczema is causing you pain or discomfort and/or if it is keeping you from participating in daily activities like work, social occasions, and sleep.
That said, there’s no reason to wait until your symptoms are hindering your everyday life to seek guidance and treatment. Doctors and dermatologists are there to share preventative techniques or provide treatment options whether your eczema is under control or you’re in the middle of a flare-up.
I haven’t made my appointment yet… should I see a dermatologist for eczema, or my general practitioner?
If you have mild eczema, it’s generally recommended that you start addressing your eczema by speaking with your GP. General practitioners often work in conjunction with dermatologists to help determine a treatment course for their patients. You may need to visit a dermatologist if your symptoms worsen, or persist despite treatment, or if you simply want additional guidance.
If you have severe eczema, it is best to meet with a dermatologist and to make them an integral part of your care team.
What About Visiting a Dermatologist for Your Baby or Child’s Eczema?
Untreated eczema in children can reduce the quality of your child’s sleep, increase the risk of skin infection, and interfere with daily activities. Your pediatrician can recommend OTC, age-appropriate products for your child’s eczema, but you should visit a pediatric dermatologist if your child’s eczema is severe or does not respond to treatment. Just as with adult eczema, a pediatric dermatologist can rule out other conditions, diagnose the type of eczema your child has, and provide treatment and follow-up care.
Adding Gladskin to Your Routine
If your dermatologist or doctor recommends that you try non-prescription skincare, consider Gladskin’s steroid-free Eczema Cream with Micreobalance®. It's clinically proven to reduce eczema symptoms and restores balance to the skin microbiome as it moisturizes.