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3 Ways To Talk To Your Doctor (And Get Results)

Posted on March 14, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D.
Article written by
Joan Grossman

Open communication with your doctors is essential to ensure you receive the care you need for your eczema. Here are some ways you can talk to your doctor more easily and get results that may improve your skin condition.

Fill out the pledge at the bottom of this article to commit to the actions you’ll take. Leave a comment at the end of the article to encourage others to join you.

Eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes inflamed, itchy, and dry skin. It can be associated with asthma, hay fever, food allergies, and an increased risk for skin infections. Although there currently is no cure for eczema, symptoms are typically managed with a combination of over-the-counter and prescription treatments. These can include lotions, moisturizers, corticosteroids, antihistamines, phototherapy (ultraviolet light therapy), or systemic medications.

Research shows that shared decision-making and good communication with your health care team can lead to improved adherence to treatment plans and better outcomes. In shared decision-making, you and your dermatologist work together to determine treatment options that take your preferences, goals, and values into consideration.

Many MyEczemaTeam members struggle to have effective communication with their health care providers. “How did you get your dermatologist to listen to you and take you seriously?” one member asked.

Consider talking with your doctor about the three conversation topics below. These topics can help you communicate your needs and concerns in clear and effective ways.

Conversation #1: How Eczema Disrupts Your Life

Everyone’s experience with eczema is unique. Let your doctor know how eczema affects you physically and emotionally. Talk to your doctor about how eczema flare-ups disrupt your work or social life or affect your mental health. Stress, anxiety, and depression are linked to eczema inflammation, so your doctor needs to understand how you experience these symptoms.

MyEczemaTeam members have shared how eczema disrupts their daily activities. “Most of the time I just stay home due to lack of sleep or finding clothes I can wear that are OK for going out in public,” a member said. “Dealing with my skin has sort of taken over my life.”

Another member wrote, “It's an overwhelming disorder to have to live with, and it impacts every aspect of our lives.”

Eczema can affect your lifestyle in many ways. It may curtail activities you would like to enjoy. By communicating honestly with your doctor, you may get the help you need to improve your quality of life.

Because your doctor may not start this conversation, here are some things you might say about disruptions you experience:

  • “I’d like to discuss how I can get help with the emotional stress I’ve been feeling.”
  • “I’m uncomfortable seeing friends because of my eczema. How can I work on that?”
  • “I’d like to get more exercise, but sweat irritates my eczema. What is your advice?”
  • “I’m worried that intimacy has become uncomfortable. What can I do about that?”

Don’t avoid topics that may seem embarrassing. Your doctor’s job is to help you feel better and to treat you with respect. Make notes about any physical or emotional issues that disrupt your life and have a conversation with your doctor on your next visit.

Conversation #2: Treatment Satisfaction

Talking to your doctor about treatment satisfaction is one of the most important ways you and your doctor can make sure you have an effective treatment plan that you will stick to. Carefully explain what is and isn’t working in your current treatment. You may feel that your topical skin care treatment is too complicated, time-consuming, and difficult to manage with your other responsibilities. You may be experiencing unpleasant side effects or frustratingly itchy skin.

Let your doctor know if you are getting the results you want. Is your skin clearing? Are you frustrated with the condition of your skin? Here are some conversation starters you can try with your doctor:

  • “I’m finding my skin care regimen is too hard to keep up with. What are my options?”
  • “I need more help controlling itching. Are there adjustments to my treatment plan we could make?”
  • “What can I do to have clearer skin?”
  • “What should my realistic expectations be?”

Ask specific questions that let your doctor know exactly what your concerns are.

Conversation #3: Exploring All Your Treatment Options

Be sure to talk to your doctor about ongoing medical advances for the treatment of eczema. Ask your doctor about new medications and what the benefits and drawbacks might be. In recent years, there has been significant progress in treating eczema with systemic drugs that work by moderating disorders in the immune system believed to be a cause of eczema.

New biologic drugs are in development for the treatment of eczema. These medications may provide relief from symptoms when other topical treatments have not worked effectively. Biologics are injectable drugs that work by targeting overactive cells in the immune system. Dupilumab (Dupixent) is currently the only biologic drug approved for the treatment of eczema, but more biologics are in the pipeline.

Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors are a new class of drugs that work by blocking the pathways of overactive proteins in the immune system associated with inflammation. These drugs were originally approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. JAK inhibitor treatments are now available for eczema. In 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved ruxolitinib (Opzelura) for mild to moderate atopic dermatitis in adults and adolescents. Upadacitinib (Rinvoq) is another JAK inhibitor approved by the FDA in 2022 to treat adults and adolescents with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis.

Talk to your doctor about the benefits and drawbacks of emerging drugs. Ask your doctor how quickly results can be achieved with these medications and if the effects are long-lasting. Because there is the potential for both minor and major side effects, talk about what you should expect if you start a new treatment. You can also discuss the possibility of participating in trials for new drugs.

Here are some ways you can initiate a conversation about treatment options:

  • “I’d like to know your opinion on biologics and JAK inhibitors for treating eczema.”
  • “I would be interested in exploring newer treatment options for my eczema.”
  • “Would I be a good candidate for treatment with a biologic or a JAK inhibitor?”

How To Prepare for a Conversation With Your Doctor

Planning your conversation with your doctor will help you communicate more effectively. You’ll also be better prepared to raise your questions and concerns. Here are some tips for having a meaningful and productive conversation with your doctor:

  • Write down your concerns in a notebook before your appointment, and take notes when you talk with your doctor.
  • Be open and honest with your doctor.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions at any point during your doctor visits, and always let your doctor know if you have concerns about treatment options.
  • Bring a friend or family member with you to take notes and ask questions.

Call to Action

Are you trying to communicate more effectively with your doctors? Comment below to share which actions you selected — and how your doctor visit goes — with your teammates on MyEczemaTeam. By sharing your action steps, you can gain support on the road to self-care and self-acceptance, while encouraging others to join you.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyEczemaTeam is the social network for people with eczema and their loved ones. On MyEczemaTeam, more than 43,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with eczema. Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D. is a dermatologist at the Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Joan Grossman is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. Learn more about her here.

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