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3 Ways To Talk to Your Doctor (and Get Results)

Updated on December 27, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D.
Article written by
Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN

Open communication with your doctors is essential to ensure you receive the care you need for eczema. 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 communicate with their health care providers, with one member asking, “How did you get your dermatologist to listen to you and take you seriously?”

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 share which conversation starters you’re going to try. Leave a comment at the end of the article to encourage others to join you.

1. Express How Eczema Affects Your Life

Everyone’s experience with eczema is unique. Let your doctor know how the skin disease affects you physically and emotionally. Describe 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.”

Severe eczema can affect your lifestyle in many ways. Symptoms like dry skin and itchiness, as well as the need to avoid skin irritants and allergens, 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.

Start the Conversation

Because your doctor may not broach the topic of disruptions that eczema can cause, here are some examples of what you might say to prompt the discussion:

  • “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.

2. Discuss Your Feelings About Treatment

Are you happy with your eczema treatment? Talking together 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’ll stick to. Carefully explain what is and isn’t working in your current treatment.

For example, 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 persistent itchy skin.

Start the Conversation

Let your doctor know if you’re not 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?”
  • “Are there over-the-counter lotions or cleansers I could try?”
  • “What should my realistic expectations be?”

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

3. Ask About All Your Dermatology Treatment Options

Be sure to talk with your doctor about ongoing medical advances for the treatment of eczema. Ask about new medications and what their 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.

The National Eczema Association reviews biologic drugs that are in development for the treatment of eczema. These new medications may provide relief from eczema symptoms when other topical treatments like corticosteroids, moisturizers, ointments, and creams haven’t worked effectively. Biologics are injectable drugs that work by targeting overactive cells in the immune system. Dupilumab (Dupixent) and tralokinumab (Adbry) are currently the only biologic drugs approved for the treatment of eczema.

Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors are a new class of drugs that block 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 inhibitors are now available for eczema.

In 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Opzelura (ruxolitinib) for mild to moderate atopic dermatitis in adults and adolescents. In 2022, the FDA approved two more JAK inhibitors to treat moderate to severe atopic dermatitis — Rinvoq (upadacitinib) for adults and adolescents and Cibinqo (abrocitinib) for adults.

Talk to your doctor about the benefits and drawbacks of emerging drugs. Ask how quickly results can be achieved with these medications and if the effects are long-lasting. Because of 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 clinical trials — research studies that test new drugs.

Start the Conversation

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?”
  • “Do you think there are any new treatments or prescriptions I should try?”

More Ideas for Talking to Your Doctor

Planning your conversation with your doctor will help you communicate more effectively and get more out of your appointments. You’ll also be better prepared to raise questions and concerns. Here are some additional 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. You could also ask for permission to record the appointment.
  • Be open and honest with your doctor.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions at any point during an appointment, 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

Which conversation do you plan to start with your doctor? Select the actions below that you pledge to try. You can also see how many other MyEczemaTeam members are doing the same.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyEczemaTeam is the social network for people with eczema and their loved ones. On MyEczemaTeam, more than 46,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with eczema.

Is there anything you’d like to change about your conversations with your doctor? Do you feel you’re being heard at appointments? If not, what would you like to spend more time discussing? Share your thoughts in the comments section or 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.
Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here.

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