Increasing numbers of young people are seeking specialist help for skin problems like acne and dermatitis.
The National Skin Centre (NSC) treated 1,449 cases of dermatitis, also known as eczema, last year, up from 1,338 in 2016 among children aged 13 to 19. It also saw 1,358 acne patients last year, compared with 1,192 in 2016. The NSC treats about 80 per cent of the overall outpatient dermatology attendances in public healthcare institutions.
It released the figures ahead of World Skin Health Day, which the Dermatological Society of Singapore is marking for the first time this year. The event aims to recognise and promote skin health.
Singapore’s Skin Health Day was on Saturday and included a public forum at Carlton Hotel that covered common ailments like eczema, psoriasis and hives. Awareness is certainly increasing. Doctors say the number of cases seen by the NSC is not because more people are developing skin problems but because more are seeking help.
Dr Yew Yik Weng, consultant in charge of the eczema clinic, NSC, said: “It’s possible that it’s not that more people have these skin conditions, but that there are more people seeking help for it because they are concerned over their self-image.
“Perhaps in the past, people dismissed it as part of a growing phase and waited for it to pass. But now, I speak to teenagers and their parents who are more concerned. Some teenagers even independently seek help without going through their parents.”
Eczema remains the most common skin condition, making up a third of all new cases the NSC saw last year. Most cases start when kids go to primary school and half will usually grow out of it. Around 20 per cent of school-age children have eczema. With self-image becoming so important for youngsters, it becomes even more crucial to raise awareness of skin conditions and reduce the stigma or misunderstanding of common ailments like eczema.
MENTAL STATE CAN BE AFFECTED
A person’s mental state can be influenced by their skin health and vice versa.
It’s important to have this World Skin Health Day to raise awareness of the condition.
Vitiligo is an example of this. It shows up as white spots and patches on the skin because of a progressive loss of the pigment, melanin, which gives us our skin colour. It is not contagious.
Dr Yew had a patient with severe eczema that covered a large part of his skin, including visible areas. The patient had skin that was always flushed, flaky and itchy, and he felt it was challenging for others to understand him.
One eczema patient is student Jeramie Lim, 17, who has had the skin condition since birth. He said: “Initially when my condition was a lot more serious, I would be quite self-conscious… Many friends usually asked me questions like why is my skin like this or is it contagious?
“I would usually try to hide it from others. However, as I grew older, I realised that other people had my condition as well, if not worse. That made me more confident because I didn’t feel like I was alone.”
Dr Tee Shang-Ian agreed that there are social and emotional challenges for those with skin conditions. “A person’s mental state can be influenced by their skin health and vice versa. It’s important to have this World Skin Health Day to raise awareness of the condition,” said Dr Tee, who specialises in urticaria, or hives, at the NSC.
Dr Colin Theng, treasurer of the Dermatological Society of Singapore, added: “Skin health is very important as skin diseases are very common but there is a lack of awareness of this in Singapore… we hope to educate the public and equip and empower them with the knowledge and skills to take the steps towards better care of their skin. Many skin diseases can be prevented with better care of our skin.”