Eczema causes unpleasant symptoms, including itchy, flaky, red, and patchy skin. It is these symptoms that lead most people to seek out a doctor’s care. Whether you’ve had eczema since you were young or you have only recently developed the signs of this skin disorder, a trip to your doctor can help you get the right diagnosis and treatment.
There are a few types of doctors that can help you with your eczema diagnosis and treatment. While a family doctor or primary care physician (PCP) may know you better and be more affordable, a specialist may be better versed in treating eczema and conditions like it. Choosing whom to see is largely a personal matter.
Primary Care Physician
Primary care doctors include internists, family practice doctors, and pediatricians who treat children. Most people begin their medical treatment here. Young and older adults with eczema can see an internist for an evaluation of the skin condition, while adults and children can see a family practice physician or pediatrician for an examination. If necessary, these doctors can refer you to a specialist for treatment.
A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in conditions of the skin, hair, and nails. Dermatologists will be able to diagnose eczema and prescribe the right treatment for a child, teen, or adult with the chronic skin condition. This will most likely include medicine to target specific symptoms, either topical (applied to the skin) or oral (taken by mouth). The doctor will also suggest behavioral changes to help control your symptoms. If there is another underlying problem, such as asthma or hay fever, he or she can refer you to the right specialist.
An allergist is a doctor who specializes in treating individuals with allergies. If an allergy is causing your eczema, the allergist will help find the specific cause using a series of tests.
Your doctor will begin your appointment by listening to your concerns and looking at your skin. Giving your doctor as many details as possible will ensure that you get the right diagnosis and the best treatment for your particular type of eczema.
Make sure to tell your doctor:
- what your symptoms are
- how long you have had the symptoms
- if anything serves to aggravate or relieve your eczema
In addition to explaining your symptoms, after your doctor has diagnosed your eczema, you can ask questions like:
- Are there any things you should avoid to reduce flare-ups?
- Are there over-the-counter products that can help itching and redness?
- Can he or she recommend any home treatments for relief?
- Are there any drug reactions to worry about if the doctor prescribes a topical or oral medication?
For many people, the hardest part of dealing with eczema is embarrassment. While treating and preventing flare-ups is the first line of defense, occasional symptoms may not be completely preventable. Your doctor may be able to direct you to local support groups. Also, the National Eczema Association offers a support group network with groups across the country (NEA).