The questions below were raised by visitors to the STOMP (Straits Times Online Mobile Print) website in the AskST section of the website. eMenders doctors provided the answers to the questions raised as a public health education project. The information provided below is of a general nature and should not be treated as a replacement for medical advice. You should seek consultation from a medical or healthcare professional about your specific medical condition.


A wart is due to a viral infection with the Human Papilloma Virus, and is contagious.

A callus is formed by layers of dead skin and is due to pressure and friction. Calluses are not contagious.

The surface of a wart is rough, while that of a callus is smooth.

Warts can occur anywhere on the skin, whereas calluses develop over skin sites subjected to repeated pressure. Common sites for calluses are the fingers, ankles and feet.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist

Dermatologists deal with such problems regularly and your father is welcome to consult eMenders dermatologist, Dr Lee Chui Tho about his hair loss problem.

Dr. Lee is a Consultant Dermatologist at the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre and was previously the Assistant Medical Director and Consultant Dermatologist at the National Skin Centre.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist

Hair in hypothyroid patients is often dry, brittle and coarse in texture. Hair is part of the skin, the latter being generally pale with yellow discoloration, the result of elevation of serum and tissue carotene levels, anaemia and decreased blood flow. The skin is often cool and dry, a reflection of the decrease in sweat and oil secretion. Alopecia (hair loss) commonly occurs on the scalp and the lateral eyebrows.

All these skin and hair-related problems are reversible with correction of the under active thyroid gland (hypothryoid state) with thyroxine (a thyroid hormone) supplements. Thyroxine, when given as treatment for hypothyroidism, reverses hair loss.

Contributed by Dr Alex Fok, Endocrinologist

Vitiligo is a skin disorder characterised by loss of pigmentation in patches of otherwise normal skin. Pigment producing cells are attacked and this results in the appearance of milky patches of skin which may proliferate further.

At present, the precise cause of the disease is not fully understood. It seems that it may well be a combination of auto-immune, environmental and genetic factors.

As such the treatments of the disease are usually cosmetic extensions; changing the appearance of the vitiligo. The use of re-pigmentation therapies on affected patches have had limited effectiveness. Psoralen plus ultraviolet light A (PUVA) is effective in a proportion of cases.

It is highly important to rule out associated disorders that manifest in the same way. These include thyroid diseases, pernious anaemia, addisons, diabetes mellitus, hypoparathyroidism, myasthenia gravis, alopecia areata, lichen sclerosis. Some of these are highly treatable.

We cannot comment on the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine to help control vitiligo.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist

There are many types of acne scars, each requiring a different type of treatment. By and large, acne scars are not easy to treat and cure completely. It is impossible to rid yourself of them completely.

Lasers cannot remove the scars completely, and can only improve them.

Microdermabrasion does no harm to the skin; non-invasive lasers are generally safe. However, other certain types of lasers can do harm to the skin if not used properly.

Contirbuted by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist

Blackheads around the nose area is usually due to sebum from overactive sebaceous glands. Dermabrasion, chemical peels, pore reducing lasers and topical retinoic acid can be used to reduce the problem.

Ideally if there were a laser that could selectively target the oil glands, then the whole problem could be resolved on a long term basis. Until this happens, however, the only method is to reduce the problem (which is likely to recur) through repeated treatments.

If the blackhead problem is due to dark small hairs, these can be treated with hair removal laser.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist

We presume that you have excessive sweating from palms and/or armpits. You can take tablets but usually they have unacceptable side effects. Generally the treatments that are used for excessive sweating are Driclor, Iontophoresis, Botox injections and when these fail, sympathetectomy.

You should see your dermatologist to assess which of these treatments is the most appropriate for your situation.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist

Sweaty palms can be treated medically or surgically. The former includes Driclor application (a roll-on), iontophoresis (A process whereby an affected body part is immersed in a conductive solution which transmits a very small electrical charge into the body) and BOTOX injections. The latter includes a procedure known as a sympathetectomy.

You need to see a dermatologist to assess your condition to see which option is best for you as there are pros and cons for every mode of treatment.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist

There are no studies to show that olive oil shampoo will make the hair re-grow. In theory, olive oil does not help.

Make sure you see a doctor or a dermatologist to classify which type of hair loss you are having and to find out the possible cause or causes of the type of hair loss.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist.

There are many types of eczema. You have to see a doctor or a dermatologist to classify which type you are referring to. Until then we are unable to advise you.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist

One of the functions of sweating is to get rid of the heat the body produces. It may be too unhealthy not to sweat. If you swim, you do not sweat at all. The heat is conducted away by the water and it partly goes away with the hot urine.

If you can get rid of the heat when you are hot by other means like taking a cold shower or staying in an air-conditioned room, then it is not a problem if you do not sweat. Otherwise, you may have heatstroke or hyperpyrexia.

It is not normal not to sweat. . It may be due to an abnormality of the sweat gland itself or at any level in the nervous pathway for sweating. There are many causes of this problem such as anhidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, Sjogrens disease etc.

You should see a doctor or a dermatologist to find out the cause. Treatment will depend on the cause.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist

There are many types of hair loss and each type has many causes. You need to see a doctor or a dermatologist to classify your hair loss into which type and to find out the cause of the type of hair loss you have.

Some hair loss can be due to highly treatable causes such as infections or nutritional deficiency.

Dermatologists use medication which are proven by studies to help hair loss. We are unable to comment on the use of oils or herbal medication.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist

Hairs need to drop in order for new hairs to replace them. If you do not lose an excessive amount of hair, you do not have to worry.

We can make hair re-grow by either applying medications or taking oral medications. We also need to treat the cause of the hair loss. We are unable to comment on the use of natural herbs or plants.

If you have a hair loss problem, you should see a doctor or a dermatologist to find out which type of hair loss you have and what is causing the hair loss.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist

The history sounds like an infected cyst, which can occur in patients prone to acne. Treatments are usually done with intralesional injection or oral medications depending on the individuals condition.

If the cause is due to acne, prevention is possible by treating the acne properly.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist

Eczema is a form of dermatitis or inflammation of the upper layers of the skin. The term eczema usually refers to a range of persistent or recurring skin rashes, which often cause redness, skin edema, itching and dryness with possible crusting, flaking, blistering, cracking, oozing or bleeding. Sometimes, areas of temporary skin discoloration characterize healed lesions but scarring is rare.

Treatment of very bad eczema in children and even adults is very difficult. There is no single good treatment. It may involve topical treatment, oral systemic treatment or ultraviolet light treatment. One should also avoid aggravating and precipitating factors, which include psychological factors sometimes.

It is recommended for your son to see a dermatologist to determine which treatment is most suitable for him.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist

The description given is known as Longitudinal Melanonychia. Longitudinal Melanonychia, also known asMelanonychia Striata, is characterized by the presence of a pigmented strip vertically across the nail bed.

It results from deposition of melanin in the nail plate from a variety of causes. One of the common causes is a low level of adrenocortical hormones. Generally, most longitudinal cases are not dangerous but some of the causes can be serious. Longitudinal melanonychia is not due to any vitamin deficiencies.

It is advisable for you to consult a dermatologist to find out the exact cause of your problem.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist

The description given above seems to suggest a severe type of Atopic Dermatitis. This type of Atopic Dermatitis is a very common problem, affecting 20% of Singapore school children.

Atopic Dermatitis could be caused by a combination of heredity and environmental factors. A detailed history is required to identify the triggering factors, which could be many. Avoidance of any or all the factors is/are necessary to reduce the problem.

For heredity factors, there is no cure for the problem as one cannot remove or change the genes responsible for the dermatitis.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist

For males, Propecia is usually given if there is no contraindication. Propecia is a type of oral medication used to treat male pattern hair loss. It works by inhibiting 5-Reductase, which in turn helps to slow down the formation of the hormone that causes hair loss. Propecia is only available by prescription and cannot be purchased from any pharmacy.

For females, Propecia is not approved and not used. Sometimes, antiandrogens may be given. However, patients still need to be assessed to determine the cause of hair loss before any medications are prescribed.

Contributed by Dr Lee Chui Tho, Dermatologist