You have just seen your dermatologist who diagnosed the rash on your arms, legs and neck as eczema. He has given you two prescription medications and a skin care regimen to follow. He was very thorough with the explanation and answered all your questions.
You were satisfied and understood the treatments. As you are driving home, suddenly you had two important questions pop up in your mind. You kick yourself for not asking him.
Has this ever happen to you?
Unfortunately this is too common of scenario. As we sit in a doctor’s office, it is very natural that we are nervous and stressed. Studies have shown that most patients only comprehend and remember less than 50% of what their doctors are telling them. It’s partially due to nerves, and also it is difficult to understand some of the technical and medical jargons.
Eczema is a chronic skin condition. Medication can control intermittent flares of the disease. More importantly, a good skincare regimen can prevent eczema from flaring. The treatment regimen can be complicated, leaving many patients with many questions.
Here are list of questions you should consider asking before leaving the doctor’s office.
- Efficacy of the drug:
-How quickly will the drug work?
-What percentage of patients actually improve on this drug?
-How long do I need this drug?
Asking those questions will help you to stay more compliant. If you know the medication will take at least 6 weeks to be effective, you’re more likely to stay on the medication at week 4 when you don’t see any improvement yet.
- Side effects and risks
-What are the most common side effects (e.g., thinning of the skin as seen in topical steroids use) associated with the drug? Can they be easily fixed?
-What are the rare but very dangerous side effects (e.g., blindness or kidney failure) associated with this drug? Knowing this category of risk, allows you to pay more attention to signs and symptoms associated with those particular risk factors. You can stop the medication immediately to avoid any catastrophic damage.
-Are those side effects permanent or temporary? If I stop the medication, will the side effects go away? For example, a common side effect with topical steroids is thinning of the skin. Once the medication is stopped, thinning of skin will resolve for most patients.
-What blood test or laboratory workup is needed while I am on the drug? For example, for people with really severe eczema, physicians sometimes prescribe cyclosporin. To monitor the side effect, your doctor will often request blood tests such as a complete blood count, basic metabolic profile, and liver function test.
- What is your doctor’s personal experience with this drug?
-How long has this drug been used for treating eczema?
-How long has your doctor been prescribing this medication?
- In addition to common questions such as frequency of use, here are more questions regarding how to use a medication.
-Can this drug been combined with other drugs?
-When can I stop using the drug?
-If I stopped, can I resume using the same drug down the road?
-Can I switch to a low potent drug if my eczema is under control?
-If I need to stop the medication, can I stop suddenly or do I need to stop it gradually?
- Cost and insurance
-The unfortunate reality is that the price of most drugs has increased rapidly over the past few years. Ask your doctor for coupons, samples or specific pharmacy stores that have the lowest price.
- Lastly, don’t forget to ask your doctor for alternative therapy if you are not interested in the one they are recommending.
This set of questions can be helpful for patients with eczema consulting with their physicians. In fact, the same categories of questions can be very useful in talking to your physicians about nearly all types of medical conditions. So, print it out and bring it to your next doctor’s visit.
Do you have any other questions that you have found it helpful? Please share them with us.