Friday 15 October 2021

Cure to Discoid Eczema (钱币湿疹) and Other Findings

Discoid or chianbi (coin) eczema. Wet or "weeping" type.

My daughter - who is 14 - suddenly came down with discoid eczema, the "weeping" or wet type. In Mandarin it is called 钱币湿疹 or coin eczema.

It started innocently enough: pinprick red dots. At first I thought they were insect or mite bites and applied the same all-natural cream that had cured her hellish sandfly bite before. Hellish because it took 5 years and the right cream to get rid of it. Triderm cream worked at first, but the main spot would return, a "cure-and-come back" kind of scenario. That there's no official cure for sandfly bite was surprising and alarming in this day and age. Only until a friend recommended that all-natural cream made from the guava plant and by the Miao tribe in China did the sandfly bite finally regressed and disappeared all together.

The red spots on my my girl's arms soon became more and more and grew into coin-sized.patches that oozed plasma. It was as if she had grazes all over.

A visit to the family doctor - a man we had known for over 40 years - turned out to be not helpful. He had not seen something like that in all his years of practice. But we agreed it was probably eczema as a sister of mine had a mild case, and my own mom also suffered from allergies that resulted in rashes and eczema-like symptoms (something I would learn more about from my elder sister who had always lived with her.)

This family doctor prescribed Prednisolone for my girl to help manage her itch. But still, the rash patches grew more and worse.

Googling on the Web for all kinds of eczema surprisingly did not elicit any of the discoid type. The clinical advice and anecdotal stories that popped up spoke of the common dry kind that often itched badly and produced cracked or scaly skin. They were in small or large patches and some even covered the whole body.

I tried hard to compare eczema pics found during this search to my girl's case. Often they were not a perfect match. Even staph (bacteria) cases popped up. But as these were mostly pusty, I dismissed them. The next thing on my mind were allergies, which seemed a common cause. We kept a dog, so the question was "Is he responsible". But since my girl's condition seemed topical and likely not contact dermatitis, I decided to bring her to our national skin center to take a look. At the back of my mind, I was hoping my girl's condition was due to some mystery illness.

A call to the NSC was alarming. The nearest appointment was six months away! Oh, what a long waiting list! So I decided what any parent would do, i.e. go get a referral from a nearby government polyclinic.

The doctor at the polyclinic also could not do anything (medically) about my girl's condition. She only knew it had to be some sort of eczema. However, this good doc (a lady) recognised the urgency of our need for treatment and got the staff at the polyclinic to fast track us to the NSC. In the end, our wait was just two weeks.


I was relieved at the early appointment to say the least. My girl's condition was accelerating and getting worse. There was nothing I could do to ease her eczema lesion oozing. They would stick to her clothes (such as her socks for school) or wake up stuck to the bed sheets.

When the day came for our appointment at the NSC, we were seen by a senior consultant. In the room were three wide-eyed interns hanging on to his every word. Although this senior consultant came across as confident and a no-nonsense type, he, however, was typical. Beyond the usual meds for itch and steroids, he could offer nothing more. All he could say was what I found on the Web: Discoid eczema has no known cause and is still a mystery.

Inwardly, I wondered how long this "mystery" has lasted and if anyone had actually undertaken to study the condition, given its grave nature.

We were then told to come back for a follow up check up in three weeks.

On the way out I forgot my girl's MC (medical cert) and went back to ask for it. What was supposed to be a quick note turned out to be another long wait. All because this senior consultant was talking to his next patient and he refused to entertain a simple request. What an ass!


After this initial visit to the NSC, I finally got a name to my girl's eczema: discoid eczema. This gave me a handle to research it on the Web. Again few to no information on this particular type of "exudative" discoid eczema. Once again many articles and stories on the dry eczema, many from the West.

Online, I also searched for TCM docs who were experts on eczema. I found two. One had a blog and the other a widely read case story (written by the patient/child's mom).

Only the lady doctor's blog had pictures of a patient with the exact eczema type as my girl's. I was, of course, elated.

However, given my past experience with TCM docs, I was full of skepticism as well. I wondered if these TCM docs were "one trick" ponies or the real deal. At this point, I've researched enough to know that eczema is an "umbrella term" for atopic dermatitis. There are as many types of eczema expressions as there are causes. Later I would classify these causes to the following:

- stress (aka compromised immune system)
- gut bacteria
- seasonal allergies
- food allergies
- genetics

So, which one is my girl's?

This was a tough question to answer at the time. My own sister got mad at me for not taking her advice (recommending a skin doc) at face value. Well, I'm a journalist (tech and medical) so I was naturally skeptical about a skin doctor curing eczema what with the disease being "atopical" - coming from inside the body. To me seeing a skin doctor at this stage is akin to bringing your condemned car for a new paint job every three months. It will still break down.

Having found the two so-called "effective eczema TCM docs, I had to decide if I would want to bring my girl to go see them. At the back of my mind, I also wondered if their meds were legitimate too. Too often we hear of TCM meds sold over the counter as being toxic or had ingredients on the Health & Safety Authority watch list.

To further verify if these two docs were "good", I visited forums to learn more from anecdotal experience. One turned out to be "unprofessional and expensive", the other gave out meds in powder form (a no-no with me) and also expensive.

So in the end, I gave up on these two leads and just follow my gut instinct to got with either Thong Chai Medical Institute or Chung Hwa MI. But first, there was the 2nd visit to the NSA.


Before the second visit to NSC, I quickly sought out an old army buddy who had returned from an India assignment with very itched and scaly skin. He had at first thought he was bitten by a strange bug. But it turned out to be psoriasis of the dry and scaly kind.

His treatment at NSC was not finite although his skin condition had improved a lot (looking more like normal skin) although with small bumps now instead. (Later I came across an eczema looking just like that and Whatsapped him. It was deemed as Dermatitis Herpetiformis (no relation to the herpes disease at all). It was an eczema that is mostly caused by gluten intolerance.

This friend gave me a bunch of eczema care advice, including the many types of creams and hypo washes. He also confided that he sought out and was using some very expensive skin care solutions and serums. Given the alarming state of his original condition, I do not blame him. But I strongly believed my girl's condition was caused by internal factors. And since my girl is young (still a teenager) she would recover from whatever happened to her skin. That's the advantage of the young.

A very new thing I learned from this friend was that one could get UV treatment from the NSA. Apparently UV very effective on serious psoriasis cases. In seasonal countries, such psoriasis sufferers often get relief during the summer months. (Later I would uncover a video of one of the worst cases of psoriasis ever seen by a doc. Here is a much later video of the same boy after he was examined by another doc and put on cyclosporin. Video link)


After our first visit to the NSC, my girl did get some relief from the antihistamine and creams given. And this was what we told the consultant on our next visit. But my girl's "improvement" was only just. We were hoping for better treatment options on this next visit. But the consultant was rather reserved and meh, and since it was near end of day, she was kind of in a hurry to go somewhere.

In the end she told us to carry on as usual. We got to the pharmacy, got issued the same meds and hypoallergenic wash. And that was that.

I left feeling very much short-changed. Unlike Chinese TCM doctors, Western medical doctors here often behave like "prescription monkeys" do not offer any advice on what food to avoid, extra care, etc. Simply go-collect-your-meds-and-we'll-see-you-on-the-next-visit kind of attitude . A bit blase and also ridiculous given that we live a country with 75% of the population being Chinese and the abundance of TCM shops and docs. There has to be some cross-knowledge no?

Many times after seeing a Western doc, I'm is left feeling like Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk fairytale and wondering if what I was given would work.


After this useless 2nd visit to the NSC and that my girl's lesions were now reacting adversely to the steroid creams (any application would produce more oozing!), I decided firmly to seek out a TCM solution for my girl's woes. I've always felt TCM to be a more "natural" solution. Besides I've known for years that THERE IS A TCM SOLUTION TO ECZEMA. A BBC documentary has explored this issue many years back. And not surprisingly each TCM eczema herbal solution had to be individually tailored too. Turning the working herbs into a pill produced no "universal" cure. Each person's constitution had to be taken into account.

Of the two, I decided to go to Chung Hwa. There were two main reasons: 1) CH in Toa Payoh was nearer to where we lived. I also had a positive experience with them when I suddenly lost binocular vision (diplopia). 2) At Thong Chai, I only know of a very good acupuncturist. So, off to CH we went.


At Chung Hwa, I must say we were lucky to be assigned to a very good doc at first visit. She understood it was an unusual eczema. The 40+ lady doc (TCM docs are called physicians actually; but let's, for convenience sake, just address them as "Dr") listened and answered to our questions patiently. You could tell that her mind was working to see which herbs would best suit our case. As my girl was suffering from terrible itch (and unable to scratch the open lesions) this was a key concern of mine. Thankfully I was assured by this lady doc that TCM has a firm hold on this issue. The cures for itch was long in history and well defined.

After a not very long session we left to collect our herbs from the counter. I had specifically asked for herbs. The lady doc was surprised that I would take the trouble to brew the herbal concoction for my girl. I told her that I had experience and that I prefer herbs than to some mysterious powder. She smiled at that.

The cost of the herbs came up to SGD$30 for three packs.

I am glad to announce - and the whole purpose of this blog - that the Chinese TCM herbs are working. My girl's eczema coin-sized patches have stopped oozing, as did her itch. Her skin has looked less inflamed too.

A check on the herb list did indeed review herbs that had all these three functions and some.

And besides these herbs working after the first week, I also did dose my girl with double strength vit C with zinc, vit D and also protein from egg-white to help her body and skin recover. These supplements were sensible in another aspect. My girl could get her nutrients but at the same time avoid foods that might be the trigger for her eczema.

I live with my girl so I know her well. I had noticed her skin lacking lustre and actually asked her if she was eating well. If she was eating a variety of foods as well. My girl seemed stuck to the idea that being a vegan is THE healthy option. I had told her many times that she is young and that her body needs many kinds of food including fats. Young people need fats for better nerves and brain function. So, eat away and not worry about getting fat.

Another thing I noticed later about my girl is that she had, at one time,  small bumps on her sharp elbow crease. This I now conclude to be an early sign of her eczema allergy trigger. Such folds of skin catch skin radicals early.

My girl had also switched school and dropped playing basketball (she was in the school team). Exercise can keep eczema at bay. Overall it is a healthy thing for the body on the whole.

So, at the end of one week, I learned that discoid eczema has a cure, contrary to what the consultants and senior consultants tell me at NSC.

My girl and I thus happily settled into a routine of brewing and consuming herbs as well as consuming her essential vitamins and protein.

We did not expect a twist on our 2nd visit to Chung Hwa Medical Institute. And that experience really incensed me!


CH or CHMI (Toa Payoh) operates like this: You first get a queue number. Once your number is up, you register at the counter. If you are a first timer, they will assign a doc to you. If not you tell them which doc you want to see and then you are charged accordingly. $3 for a normal consultation, $5 for a "specialist". They have skin, cancer, pain and children specialists, among others.

As our first physician Dr Lui came only on Monday mornings and we were there on a Thursday, we were assigned a new attending physician, who was also a so-called skin specialist.

At this visit, I was just hoping to get more of the same herbs since they were working so wonderfully well.

Who knew that this vain and idiot of a TCM doc - a certain Mr Wen Huizhi threw out Dr Lui's prescription with nary a care nor explanation. He simply said: "I don't agree with her prescription." He then proceeded to say my girl was not suffering from eczema but "poisoning". Poisoning? I was both surprised and intrigued. Is she really? was what was coursing through my mind. This Mr Wen sounded so confident I was reluctant to question him. I was also new to my girl's condition. I naturally protested and said Dr Lui's meds were working.

He then proceed to make out a prescription for my girl. Seeing him work on his workstation, I brought up the fact that I preferred herbs. This was when this Wen fella became evasive and persuaded me to take prepared solutions and pills instead. At this I was taken aback. Up till then, I'd never med a TCM doc who would not prescribe me herbs. I find a pure herb cure to be more pristine than some solution made from grounded 'stuff" - the contents of which I know nothing about. They might as well give me a placebo and I wouldn't know.

In any case, the consultation with this physician Wen left me feeling confused and nonplussed. This feeling lasted in the cab and all the way home. I didn't have a good feeling at all. The discard of Ms Lui's prescription as well as taking home "unlisted" drugs.

At home I warned my girl: "Take once and let me know immediately if these meds worsen your condition."

Guess what? The meds did make my girl's condition worse. She itched worse and her lesions started oozing again. I was feeling freaking mad. This vain and prideful TCM doc Mr Wen had set back a week's worth of cure. What an ass!

As it was a weekend before I could consult with Ms/Dr Lui again on Monday morning, my poor girl had to again suffer her oozing discoid eczema again. However this time I was doubling what else these new drugs would do to her. I cursed that Mr Wen several times that weekend.

I was also annoyed that given such a serious skin condition, the ointment he could recommend was aloe vera. Huh? TCM with such a rich history can only offer aloe vera? Even that successful but not so professional eczema clinic with the blog online had a special herbal application to restore eczema-ed skin to original condition. As did another clinic I came to know later. And guess what? When I went back in to his office to ask for MC for my daughter, I found Mr Wen legs on the desk reading his newspaper? Is this all a game to him? A part time leisure? No sense of research, scientific or medical pondering? Just another prescription monkey that hoped to score an arbitrary success on unsuspecting patients? What an asshole!


Finally Monday came and we could return to see our original attending physician ms/Dr Lui again. We got back the same herbs.

We also went back in the evening after inquiring if there was indeed an experienced skin specialist there in CHMI. Yes, there was a certain Mr Xie Yaying, a gentlemen in his 70s. He confirmed Ms/Dr Lui's herbal prescription as correct. We got another extra three packs of the same herbs from him. At CHMI, one can only get three packets of medicinal herbs each visit. They want the doc to personally see you - the patient - just to get more of the same drugs. As usual in TCM, the physician has to again check your tongue, pulse, morning toilet and night sleeping habits to deem you ok to continue the same treatment.

I sometimes wonder how much you can learn about an illness with just these few factors, especially the iffy reading of a pulse.

Mr Xie looked fixed in his ways but at least he gave us the same treatment and herbs. I just hope he is not doing it out of not contradicting another physician and that he really knows his stuff.


I'm a rather forgiving person but the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous that Mr Wen's behavior was that day. And so I decided the proper thing to do was to write a strident complaint to the chief and assistant chief medical officers there at TP CHMI. They wrote back to apologise and said they would investigate.

Medicine and doctoring is not something to joke about. What if my girl's condition did get very worse? What if there were other complications? Seriously, so-called physicians like Mr Wen shud be severely censored or kicked out? I seriously doubt he could properly prepare a herbal list for any condition, not even for a simple case of eczema. Only solutions and pills? What an asshole!


I am writing this post so it might help anyone going through the same situation as my girl and I are currently going through.

She had come down with discoid eczema 2 - 3 months ago and it has recently gotten much worse a few weeks ago.

We are currently seeing a TCM doctor and the herbal concoction she prescribed is working. My girl's disc-shaped patches are healing and have stopped oozing plasma. The terrible itching has stopped. Over all, her skin condition is less inflamed than before. Even the outbreak that threatened her face is gone.

Ok, this was an original post I had posted on Facebook to share with friends and fellow parents who might be/or will face such an unexpected outbreak of eczema. My girl, who is 14 has had no allergy whatsoever before. No history of eczema as well. So this sudden outburst of discoid eczema is both alarming and worrisome.

This post documents somewhat my short and quick journey to understanding discoid eczema and in the process, gained much understanding  of eczema in general. Note that most eczema cases are of the dry type requiring much application of moisturizers. Discoid eczema of the weeping type is therefore different and highly uncommon. Thus many solutions offered on the Internet or anecdotal evidence do not apply. Even medical researchers have no clue. And of late, they rather like to consider discoid eczema as not "eczema" but of the auto-immune class.

==== Early Symptoms====

My girl's eczema started innocently enough: just pinprick red dots on her skin. At first I thought it was just some sort of insect bite and duly applied some cream on it. My girl also once had a sandfly bite that refused to heal after five years. In the end, after much triderm cream use and heal-and-comeback situations, her bite was finally resolved through the application of a China Mao tribe cream (Zhutaifu). I must thank my friend KK Lim, a fellow TCM enthusiast for that bit of good fortune. That cream is now very popular and sadly, also inspiring many dud ones. So, be very astute and wary when buying one.

The pinpricks on my girl's arms and legs then became tiny sores which the Zhutaifu cream had no effect. I was beginning to suspect the red spots were not insect bites but something else. Dust mites were one suspect. But as their bites have a certain pattern (and the fact that I keep a very clean home) meant they could not be a culprit.

Finally, when her skin condition worsened, I had no choice but to seek serious medical advice. As is the usual case, I brought her to a polyclinic to get a referral to a specialist. But at the clinic, I learned that she was not yet 16 and could not go to the National Skin Center. All kids with skin problems had to go to KK Hospital. However, 14 is not far from 16 and as her condition was accelerating, I had to insist she go to the NSC instead. The next problem was getting an early appointment. We were told the wait could be months. I told the doctor attending us that we could not wait. The skin lesions on my daughter were getting more and worse by the day. I needed an appointment ASAP. Thankfully this lady doctor was sympathetic to our plight (I mean she could also see for herself the condition my girl was in) and got the folks at NSC to slot my girl in for an appointment in two weeks. Dang, I was so grateful to her!

Two weeks in and we got to go to the NSC. During this time, I had not been idle. I was desperately searching the Web for a pattern match of my girl's skin condition. Surprisingly, nothing turned up. Not even on "national" eczema organisations sites. This was very weird. Only after we learned that it was discoid eczema did searches returned positive results. The implication could be that discoid eczema is rather rare.

I also wondered if there were early symptoms that she might come down with this kind of eczema. The only thing I could recall is my girl having some kind of nodules on the loose skin of the sharp side of her elbow. At the time, I was piqued but did not suspect anything. Thought it was just part of the callous skin commonly found there.

==== NSC Visit ====

At the NSC, we were attended to by a youngish senior consultant who was also accompanied by three learning interns. So eager they were they seemed to swallow every word of his. This senior consultant also seemed to exude that "I know best" demeanor, which kind of turned me off. Doctors who appear to know best often are the ones that fall flat on their face. I much prefer doctors who are open to discussion and exchange.

The session started with me telling him that we had gone to see an old family doc of my family's - a certain Dr Tong of Tong Clinic in Marsiling. Sadly, in his 40+ years of GP practice, he had not seen a case like my daughter's and so could not offer any concrete advice. He could only prescribe her Prednisolone, a common immune system suppression drug for allergies.

This senior consultant then made an inquiry about how long my girl had been on this drug, seemingly to assess if there would be any contradictions to what he might prescribe. She hadn't been long on it is what I told him.

The visit ended with him prescribing (what I learned later to be quite standard practice) antihistamines, steroid creams as well as antiseptic bath solutions. He seemed very confident that this would all help. Even if earlier he had told us discoid eczema was a condition little known.

A few weeks later we returned for the planned second visit and did not gained any further insight. In fact this consultant we saw (a lady this time) was very soft spoken. She did not inspire confidence at all nor even conversation. After a few "ers" and "umms" later, and we were told to continue with the previous prescription and that was that. Although my girl did improve a little, there was no mention of when she might recover. Nor did they tell us anything of "topical steroid withdrawal".

Later when I learned more of TSW, I've to the conclusion that these consultants are earning easy money at NSC by simply being "prescription monkeys" with no care if their drugs caused more harm than good. They also could not advice on nutrition and care.

The only good out of our visit at NSC was the blood test which I had wanted done from our first consultation. The reason was to simply to remove any unsuspecting impact factors from my girl's condition, like some kind of extreme allergy or disease. Thankfully her blood test results came back rather normal (the usual cat/dog/dust mite levels), nothing alarming..

We were given a third appointment a month later in October, but after the first two visits and uninspiring advice and results, I had the feeling I would not be returning there anytime soon. Meanwhile my girl's condition wasn't improving by much and the steroid cream she was prescribed made her wounds ooze more. It was like that sandfly bite situation again. Without deep knowledge of TSW, I made up my mind to seek a more natural cure. So online I went to seek a TCM cure. Quite a few "successful" physicians came up. But is it all hype?

=== Search for a TCM cure ===

If you search "TCM doctor and eczema cure" one prominent name also pops up. A certain lady physician by the name Dr Ong with over 20 years of experience in the matter. She has a blog with Before and After pictures of eczema patients she had successfully treated. A case looked very similar to my daughter's and I was certainly intrigued. My first instinct was to seek her out immediately.

But with TCM doctors, I've learned to be very wary. I've have come across quacks before or one-trick ponies that claim to be able to do this or that. Take a simple ankle sprain. There are "tui na" practitioners who claim they can cure it. Tui-na a sprained ankle? you must be kidding! All a sprain ankle needs is RICE. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. It is as simple as that.Instead of steroids, there is a simple remedy (a simple self-prepared herbal pack) to reduce pain and advance healing. It can cut down healing time by two weeks or more. Seriously, don't injure yourself more by going to a tui-na. A sprain is not the same as tightened or overused muscles.

Also in looking for a good TCM eczema doctor, I would counter-check by visiting forums. From them I would learn anecdotal stories if this doc or that is professional, or if their services or treatments had any effect. Of Dr Ong's clinic, the feedback was that her treatment was expensive, service not very professional. At times, it did not work. I had also personally emailed her with pictures of my girl's eczema condition. She replied that she could indeed cure her. (A picture on her blog also showed recovered skin - albeit the patches were still there. I dunno. I am a Photoshop user, and can easily fake a picture. Is Dr ONg's clinic doing the same?) Also the key question here is what herbs are she using?
Would it have long term adverse effects on my girl? Another famous clinic for eczema in Fu Lu Shou and Chinatown Point uses a powdered drink. What's inside THAT concoction?

In the end, Dr Ong could not tell me if her herbs were totally safe and so I abandoned the idea of going to her for my daughter's treatment. The same with the other "famous" clinic. No one is giving my daughter powdered TCM medicine without telling me what the herbs are inside them first.

So the next best alternative is the biggest TCM chain here in the country: Chung Hwa Medical Institute in Toa Payoh. The other choice was Thong Chai Medical in Chin Swee Road. Both I had experience with when I had sudden loss of binocular vision. Good herbs from Chung Hwa, even better acupuncture from Thing Chai.

So to Chung Hwa we went. At the back of my mind was always the slow and steady cure of TCM. But with my girl's eczema so rare, how long would her cure take? And more to the point. Do the doctors at Chung Hwa know anything about discoid eczema?

==== TCM and Eczema ====

As mentioned before, iscoid eczema, where the eczema appears as coin-shaped patches and are exudative (weeping/wet) in nature. It still has no known cause but medical professionals are now labeling it under auto-immune diseases. Dry eczema (topical, i.e. causation from inside the body, aka food allergens, hormonal change, etc) a very  common form of eczema, is often caused by both external (e.g. pollen/dust mites) and internal factors (e.g. food/bodily changes, etc).

Recently my girl (who is 14. I'm single but has her to bring up. I am actually looking for a long term partner. Hopefully someone sweet, intelligent and able to use the litter box....Oh wait, that's an ad for a cat. Oh, never mind...) - my girl she has recently come down with this rather unusual weeping "discoid" eczema.

We've been to the National Skin Centre to get an opinion and also to get blood tested. Nothing alarming there and the attending senior consultant confirmed (through physical examination) that it is indeed discoid eczema, and that very little is known of its cause.

As usual, they prescribed her antihistamine for the itchiness and also steroid for her open wounds, which were oozing plasma as if it was a graze or cut. The situation was indeed alarming as the lesions were both itchy and painful for my girl.

Apart from those common meds, the NSC offered no further insight. The second visit was rather lame: a few "ers" and "umms" and to continue with the steroid and bathing antiseptic solutions. No insight on care or nutrition.

I quickly joined an eczema support group on FB to get  some insight and found one similar case out of the many shared. This person spent a year with NSC and advised us not to go there as all they would do is steroidise you. In the end, you'll suffer from TSW - topical steroid withdrawal - which will make your condition worse than before. So, whether you are a consultant or senior consultant at NSC, it is an easy salary to make. Just be a prescription monkey and not care about the aftereffects of long term steroid use and application. Besides, applying the steroid cream made my daughter's eczema wounds ooze more. So I stopped immediately.

My preferred option was actually a TCM cure, which I had learned about years ago from a documentary/study report  done out of the UK. And also through talking to common folks who appear to have been cured. NSC was only useful for their blood test to eliminate unsuspecting impact factors.

TCM, if applied properly can be seen as a natural cure. And after reviewing my daughter's case, I came to the conclusion that hers was due to a weak constitution, poor diet (I cannot control what she eats or do not eat at school), and weak skin. Folks who do not suffer from eczema has that additional layer of fat and oils to get rid of radical debris and also to protect the deeper dermis from outside contagion (pollen) and retain moisture. Thin skin is probably the reason why eczema is genetic. You inherit the same lousy dermal layers.

Long story short, I brought her to Chung Hwa Medical Institute in Toa Payoh. Thankfully we got to a very good TCM doc there at first try. The herbs she prescribed was spot on. She was also reassuring saying control of itchiness and inflammation in TCM is well known. And that cures are also well defined.

 After three days of twice-a-day herbal drink (which I prefer to brew myself) her bad itch has stopped. Importantly, the lesions have also stopped oozing or "plasma-ing". She can now lay on her bed without waking up and sticking to her sheets.

The doctor we are seeing is Ms Liu Siuzheng of Rm 6. She is only there on Monday mornings. There are so-called "skin specialists" at Chung Hwa. On our 2nd visit (because we couldn't make it on Monday morning) we were referred to one such "skin specialist" at Room 15. Instead of continuing with the first meds (the herbs), he (a certain Mr Wen Huizhi, 60-ish skinny chap) vainly threw out Ms Liu's prescription and gave us totally new meds made out of prepared solutions and pills. He even told me that my daughter's condition was not eczema but "due to poisoning"! I told him twice that I preferred herbs but he refused, and connivingly persuaded us to take the solutions and pills instead. Being new to this distardly horrible skin problem, we had little choice but to accept. In my mind, I had never come across a TCM doc who ever refused to issue medical herbs. I was wondering afterwards if this fella was indeed qualified!

What happened afterwards was that my daughter's condition got worse. Her terrible itch came back as did the "oozing".

As our first doctor was only avail two days later, my poor girl had to endure her original discomfort during that period. What could have been a happy continuation of cure, turned into a nightmare once again.

That terrible TCM skin doctor is now under investigation after I made a strident complaint to the Institute. And after seeing that first doctor Ms Liu again, I also sought out (on the same day) the most senior skin specialist there. And he confirmed that the original herb prescription was indeed correct. I know because my daughter's condition showed immediate improvement. And she did not suffer any side effects. Studying the herb list (some 14 ingredients), I've also come to the same conclusion. The herbs were meant to cure eczema, itchiness and inflammation, - plus some herbs to regulate the spleen. So after all that trauma, we are now well and good.

Because of what I think is causing my daughter's eczema, I am also dosing her with essential vitamins that will aid her body in skin recovery. Vit C, vit D, zinc, and also egg white to replenish all that protein losS from plasma oozing. These, together with the herbs are probably why she is recovering faster than expected. They say girls her age are susceptible to eczema. So there could be a nutrition aspect, a hormonal aspect, plus that genetics aspect. Anyways, I'm taking a learned and logical approach. It is also because of after much research and anecdotal reading on the Internet.

1. Long term steroid use is bad; it will make your condition worse and you will have to tackle TSW afterwards: an added insult to your suffering;
2. Many dry eczema cases can be resolved through proper nutrition and diet. Avoid foods that contain salicylates. Period.
3. Some eczema cases are due to gluten intolerance.
4. Some eczema cases are due to gut bacteria. A concoction of  probiotics (or a strain called VRI2000) can help.
5. Some say licorice is very bad for eczema, so I got the TCM doc to replace it with something else. The doc is ok with it. Licorice is often used to "bitter-rise" the herbal drink to act as a catalyst.
6.. Eczema is an umbrella term for skin rash problems caused by external and internal (topical) factors.
7. You will not get a fever.
8. A friend got a terrible case of dry eczema after getting pregnant. It endured throughout her pregnancy.
10. Nodules in the loose folds in the sharp of your elbow can be an early indicator of eczema/allergy to come. Take note.

I hope this posting can go in some way to help you resolve an eczema crisis and help a sufferer live better with his/her condition or hopefully, secure a permanent cure. It is not a death sentence (esp with the largely unknown discoid eczema) and can be cured. And remember to avoid suffering from TSW. There is even a hospital in Japan dedicated to it - a kind of holistic treatment center for long-term eczema suffers (real or bluff you have to read more anecdotal evidence of the hospital).

Best wishes, and to better knowledge and understanding in all things,

TC Lai
I will put this up in a blog later so more folks can share and be aware. My girl has some ways to go but it has been a great start!

From red pinpricks they became coin-sized or patches.

The deceptive aloe vera we used that caused infection.

How my girl is "mumified" after applying teabags on her raw wounds to get a good nights sleep. No use of sleeping pills. We did use an anti-histamine pill bought from a TCM medical hall off-the-shelf that worked very well.  

We settled on using green tea after experimenting with oolong and camomile.

On road to recovery.

The excellent TCM herbs that Chung Hwa Medical Institute dispensed. Yes, those are dried cicadas. All the ingredients have some history or pointed use in skin irritation/wetness. 

Wednesday 13 October 2021

What's the big hoo-hah about Ivermectin all of a sudden?

What's the big hoo-hah about Ivermectin all of a sudden?

Recently, there's been a lot of social media chatter about Ivermectin - that "It's an animal medication!", "It cures Covid!", "Don't take it, it kills!" etc.

For over 30 years, this drug has been a godsend to folks blighted by river blindness AND elephantiasis. For Singapore folks like me, the closest I get to river blindness is when I try to take a dawn picture at Kallang and the river slaps me with an insouciant glare from the sun.

What river blindness is - is when microscopic thread-like worms make their way into that clear covering of the eye called the cornea and trigger an immune response causing an injection of keratin turning it opaque. One to two million people get it every year with about half eventually going permanently blind. The other half live with some kind of visual impairment. And it is all due to the bite of a black fly that loves living near angry waterways.

If the microscopic threadlike worms are lazy, they ride along the lymphatic system and you'll end up with swollen limbs and joints, hence the condition "elephant leg". When dead, the worms cause intense itching and even skin depigmentation, giving you a "leopard spotty" camouflage.

Ivermectin works. And it works particularly well against parasitic round worms, what scientists call "nematodes". Worms that are flat are called, well, flatworms. Ivermectin is also highly effective against ticks or what we all know as "kutu" around these parts. Fish farmers have been using the drug to rid their pools of fish lice. 

For sure, Ivermectin did not start life as a river blindness cure. It was hailed as a wonder drug six years prior in the bovine husbandry industry. Parasitic infection was a very serious matter then, affecting our ability to have one hamburger or two.

We have all seen how bochap cows stand serene in a sweet-looking pastoral field only for them to be constantly swishing their tails as if quick-charging an imaginary handphone. 

Forget methane. If you can harness the energy from their swishing tails, I believe a small town can light up for Halloween a whole week! Or at least Farmer Bill could get in more than one warm bath a week and not smell like the titular barn each time he steps into the house.

The problem was particularly acute in Brazil. The country was a major exporter of beef. Eighty percent of their cattle were at any one time infected with some kind of parasite or other, causing a $2 billion annual loss. With Ivermectin, that loss quickly flipped into an annual billion dollar positive gain. No wonder money politics is so prevalent there, as well as a romanticised life of the macho "ranchero" there. A local sitcom featuring a "stud" is sure to do well there. Doesn't matter if he's "bent" like Ricky Martin. A beefcake is a beefcake is a beefcake.

So, who discovered Ivermectin? I would love it to be that karang guni man digging around the back lane in my hometown of Geylang, but no. It was a scientist - a certain Satoshi Omura - who was digging up soil looking for useful microbes near a golf course in  Honshu, Japan. Or more so an Irishman named William Campbell who was a parasite expert and the one who had some skill in purifying whatever substance Omura found that was useful. Their combined effort was an effective drug called Avermectin. 

Avermectin? Yes, you read that right. 

Ivermectin is just a chemically altered version of Avermectin. 

Both gentlemen - Omura for his stubborn screening of useful microbes, Campbell for his good use of chemistry flasks - received the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for their momentous efforts. That day, the Earth spun a little faster as bovine creatures all over gleefully farted to celebrate the news. Since 1981, they had swished their tails much less and their four chambered stomach also upset little. Cattle already in abattoirs that day were understandably rather muted (ah, liao kai).

Ivermectin was better known as Mectizan for a long time. The reason is that Merck & Co (yes, that pharmaceutical giant) developed the drug and in 1987, gave it away free to developing countries. If Merck & Co is accused of selling Covid drugs at a ridiculous price today, ask if they are giving them away free to poor countries. They have done it before and should be encouraged to do the same again. A $$$ pfizered heart can be denatured.

Why is Ivermectin so effective against those parasites? The reason could be how its works.

Ivermectin opens up a channel in the membrane of the parasite's nerve cell and causes it to be flooded with chloride ions. This flood of negative ions in turn causes an imbalance to the electrical potential of the cell. When this happens, the neurons are unable to fire and it leaves the creature lembek (muscle feeble) till death overcomes it. In other words, it cannot wriggle away and siam.

In river blindness, a key property of Ivermectin also makes it doubly effective. Its large molecular size does not allow it to seep across the blood-aqueous barrier of the eye. Applied on the cornea, it stays there and rids it of any tiny worms. Or indeed, even those that have burrowed under. If the planet Arrakis rained Ivermectin on Dune, Paul Atreides would not have any worm to ride, only his sandpeople girlfriend behind some rocks (if she's willing, that is). Amorous love-making on sand is only good in the movies. In real life it is.... Well, you know. And then there's the sandflies...

Plus, Ivermectin can both be applied externally AND imbibed. How sweet is that?

So, if Ivermectin had been such a "wonder drug" all these years to river folk, dogs, horses and cattle, what's the big hoo-hah about it being an "experimental" drug for Covid now??? And indeed, even in cancer treatment?

Yes, cancer.

We have all heard of that story about a man curing himself of cancer with a deworming drug meant for his dog. That is not some hillbilly yarn but an established fact. A similar trial has been going on in Melbourne the last three years, and a friend is thriving from it. Last I heard, she's still peeing the same old fashion, firmly seated on the toilet, not with one leg up. 

Ah, A dog is Man's best friend. Now, even his medicine cabinet is.

Knowing that our cells mutate each day and are gotten rid of through a process known as "programmed cell death" is reassuring. It is only when this kamikaze mechanism fails that errant cells go on to thrive and cause issues. This act of cell suicide is called apoptosis. Another process is autophagy. It is when a stressed cell is programmed for destruction and its parts recycled for energy. Fasting activates autophagy - why it is good to do that periodically to rid yourself of the cellular weak links in you. 

So, in essence, we all live to get cancer and die some day. If you don't, consider yourself lucky; damn lucky. You are one in a million. No, make that in a billion! Unless you are a robot in one of Isaac Asimov's Foundation stories. A boring read but a rather colorful TV series on Apply+ (plug).

In recent years, more and more scientists are looking into how Ivermectin might fight cancer. There have been successful cases against breast cancer (truly a subject worth looking at!)

Because of its unique property of affecting ion channels, these scientists are thinking maybe there is more to Ivermectin than meets the eye (pun). If the drug can encourage cancer (and other errant cells) to commit suicide or recycle itself, isn't that great? It would lead to less invasive and destructive treatments for that dreaded "C" word.

Ivermectin and its class of drugs works but care needs to be taken. Even in its use on river blindness, only a small amount is taken - some 12 mg the whole year split in six-month periods. And this has to be taken for 10 to 14 years. That's how long the adult worm can thrive in a patient. And Ivermectin is often ingested with two other drugs to make it more stable and long term.

I wonder if Tarzan knew about this river blindness disease (officially called Onchocerciasis)? Would he still be so keen to hang around rivers to wrestle crocs? Or stand around a fast moving waterfall and go "orh yee orh"? I think not.

The river blindness worm (immature<1mm long; adult <50cm) does not hang from trees like a caterpillar to catch you unawares. It is transmitted by a black fly that hosts its larvae and leaves the adult in your skin to merrily paktor and mate after biting you. The adults form orgies under your skin and produces baby threadlike worms that squirm everywhere. Another bite from this blackfly picks up the larvae, hosts it till adult and the cycle repeats.  Black flies are commonly found around highly oxygenated waterways such as fast rivers and waterfalls. 

Hmm, "Orh yee orh, Tarzan boh cheng kor" has a ring of truth to it. Tarzan becomes blind of onchocerciasis and cannot find his loincloth. A rather lanjiao situation, if you ask me, Makes for good jungle porn though (again, if only Tarzan and Cheetah is willing).

The end - A public service piece by TC Lai, 13 Oct 2021

Friday 10 April 2020

An Evil Sweeps Through

An Evil Sweeps Through
- by TC Lai, 9th April 2020

There's a rumor in town that a new evil has arrived.
It used to be the Tax Man. "A necessary evil," is what the people in charge told us. His masters will keep us safe; give us medicines; cure our crops of malice;

Sometimes their medicines don't work and we watch our loved ones die - often due to "consumption", "dysentery", "cholera", or "listeria"...Names we dare not give our children even though they sound exotic and faeryish. Soldiers are at times ill-disciplined and steal from us.
But such pestilence would often pass after a toll has been exacted, a price paid. Or when the crows have flown away to another accursed land.
However, this time it is different.
This new evil is said to be more vicious, and careless. A careless evil is hard to arrow down even if you know it is present and near.
And worse, it watches and stops you from comforting the sick. For if you do you will soon need the same attention, and so on. Quickly, your whole family will lay gasping on the floor, not unlike fish that has fallen out of a basin. Your home is still lovely: the sun pouring sunshine in, the wind playful with the curtains. And you wonder why you are in such dire straits. You should be outside singing and dancing. It feels unreal, surreal. You gasp your last breath and wonder if you will ever wake from the sleep you feel is creeping up and sealing you in darkness for good.

But why am I drowning on dry land? - a final thought that locks you in limbo, in cyan, a color that is not supposed to exist.
Soon your whole village is asleep. Any visitor arriving will see corpses lying forward as if when alive a sprint race was afoot. Hands grasping chests as if enormous effort had been expended to win what must be the most valuable prize on offer at race end.
The visitor covers his face... In fear as well as in familiarity. Is this another incidence of pestilence? When was the last, he wonders, for some plaques do have a regular cycle like the seasons. Locusts are born, fly about, make love and die. Not before greedily eating up all your harvests leaving behind stalks for you to weave mats of, to lie down and grab your tummy in memory of food once promised.
In time folks from all over the land hear of this evil and stay away. They wear garlic in hopes of warding it off; masks so the evil will not recognise each as a family and drag them all away in unison. That's the most terrible loss a person can bear. To be alone where once meals were consumed with company, conversation and laughter. Now the silence is unnerving and unbearable, persistently gnawing at your grief.
Days and months pass. A stranger turns up and wonder why the land is lush, the wild creatures aplenty. He doesn't notice the graves that dot the land for they have been hidden from view by tall, willful grass. Birds sway atop them as oblivious as the stranger to what an evil had once wrought. Even the folks who went through the ordeal cannot be sure now if that evil had indeed passed through, so swift and devastating it was. Like a bad dream, they rather not talk about it. Soon new communities are formed, comfortable relationships forged.
Faces that were once familiar fade into a fog pierced by bright
sunlight. The blindness fades and the color of earth emerges, a land thirsting for water and the familiar grip of fresh crops. A new cycle beckons. Life once on hold begins anew.
The end

Sunday 15 March 2020

Singaporise It!

FT on coronavirus (pix received on 15th March 2020)

Can Lah!

You have a virus situation
Blur-blur about your resolution
Singaporise it!

You have a clogged up road system
Pained 'bout arterial revitalisation
Singaporise it!

You have not a beautiful garden city
Eyesore from too much concretelitis
Singaporise it!

You have civil demonstrations everyday
Can't get to work go everywhere delay
Singaporise it!

Singapore, the land is small
Singapore, people come to the fore
No matter the race, language or religion
We come together as one tokong union

Because a paper boat can stay afloat
Because a paper plane can fly
Because if paper can crease for a moment
To square up a dream
So we shall, so we shall

Our forefathers give us strength
Our children give us vision
Our harbour has forever flowered aspirations
So, if...

You have a handful of Asian padi rice
A laokwayhbu that's old, plum and pretty nice
Singaporise it!

You have some black sauce, flat noodles and cockles
A kwali and wokchan, wrist action with power
Singaporise it!

You have a thing for dried shrimp, coconut milk and spices
Plus taupok, boiled egg and fishcake
Singaporise it!

Chicken rice super nice
Charkwayteow "wo lai liao!"
Laksa anytime no lasa

So, if you have a problem you cannot solve
Look to this Tiny Dot that has much resolve
To live in Peace, Harmony and Progress
To set a example for the REST

You have rampant shootings in the schools
Children frightened hiding under stools
Singaporise it!

You have druggies, pushers hanging out at street corner
Perhaps white powder for the rich to savour
Singaporise it!

You have media mastheads of every font and color
Op-eds lambasting every issue, creed or color
Teach us leh!
Don't just Singaporise it!


- by TC Lai 15th March 2020

Saturday 7 March 2020

Corona Virus Toilet Roll Mania

The news this week out of Sydney, Australia of two women fighting over toilet rolls in a Woolsworth market inspired these two comedy pieces. Enjoy!

And this done today. ;-)

Thursday 5 March 2020

Malaysian New Back-Door Government

Did Dr M miscalculate? Or did he not do enuf to push for reform? Or indeed support Anwar. In the end, he probably wavered with Anwar because he wants a "for Malay" government. What a missed opportunity to return Malaysia to Before-Najib and some semblance of "clean" government! 

In response to Dr M being dumped out of Bersatu and the break-up of PH.

This is response to new PM meeting so quickly with UMNO president Zahid Hadidi