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Active with Allergies – SMA Medical Symposium on The Eternal Itch

November 25, 2014

After the Lunch Symposium ended, the audience of doctors proceeded to the third and final segment of the convention – the Medical Symposium, where Dr Lynette Shek, Dr Samuel Yeak and Dr Wong Soon Tee discussed food, respiratory and skin allergies respectively.

The Eternal Itch

Dr Wong Soon Tee, who delivered two talks during the Public Symposium earlier, led the last presentation of the day. He focused on four aspects of skin allergy – epidemiology, treatment, science, and his personal approach to itch.

According to a British study, out of 100 patients that a doctor sees daily, he will encounter one patient who presents with itch. Dr Wong further explained that approximately 60% of elderly patients above 65 years old will suffer mild to severe occasional itch, and the prevalence of chronic pruritus increases with age. Chronic pruritus is a big problem for elderly patients as the exact mechanisms and causes are unknown; it could possibly be attributed to pathophysiological changes of the aged skin, decreased function, poly-pharmacy, and so on.

Dr Wong shared some simple approaches to help patients with itch, including steps like looking for inflammation of the skin, identifying systemic and psychiatric causes. He highlighted that patients presenting with itch that are caused by psychiatric reasons can be spotted easily, for example, he had patients who brought their skin flakes to his clinic as they believed that there were bugs in it. Dr Wong reminded the audience to be alert to their patients’ conditions and rule out scabies or hives first.

Finally, Dr Wong listed various treatment methods, such as wearing comfortable underwear and using medications like anti-itch creams and powder. He revealed that he sometimes prescribes oral steroids for his patients as a short term approach to stop the inflammation. However, Dr Wong cautioned doctors that they should only use oral steroids to mitigate the problem within a short time frame, before countering the itch cycle aggressively with other medications instead.

In closing

The 45th SMA National Medical Convention – featuring three symposiums comprising 11 talks – finally came to a successful conclusion in the late afternoon. 

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