While skin cancer remains one of the University Hospital Sharjah’s (UHS) most serious conditions it offers treatment for, Dr Fatma Mostafa, Senior Consultant at the UHS Department of Dermatology, insists that many common and minor skin conditions are preventable or even treatable without medication.
To this end, Dr Fatma has today issued a statement advising the general public on a series of top tips on how to maintain healthy skin.
UHS’s Dermatology Department is a major referral centre for Sharjah and Northern Emirates-based patients seeking treatment for both minor and serious skin conditions. The department now deals with an average of 20 appointments per day.
Alopecia and “Hair Fall”
“One of the most regular appointments we take, for non-emergency or cancer care, is from patients complaining of excessive or exaggerated hair loss,” says Dr Fatma.
While Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disease that attacks the hair follicles in the skin, less serious conditions, causing hair loss, can have more preventable actions taken to resolve them.
“Of course, local climatic conditions and genetic factors can be contributors for various skin and hair problems, but one of the main causes we see for hair loss can be something as simple as a bad diet and lack of hydration,” Dr Fatma added.
Dr Fatma was keen to stress that there is often a misconception that because “hair-fall” is most commonly noticed in the bath or shower, it may have something to do with the desalinated water supply that is commonly used in the Gulf region.
Patients often ask whether the treated seawater containing elements such as sodium, chlorine and calcium make the hair “brittle” and fall out. This, Dr Fatma emphatically states, is not the case. She does, however, point out that frequent colouring of the hair is a major cause of long-term damage to hair, due to chemicals in the dye especially those containing ammonia.
Another common reason for exaggerated hair loss is with women who undergo multiple pregnancies without giving proper spacing between each birth. According to Dr Fatma, this can lead to the body being ill prepared to host a new baby and malnutrition can be a factor.
As is now often recognised as a foundation for all forms of health, Dr Fatma highlights the importance of a balanced diet that includes minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins and fruits and vegetables.
“Hydration is also a key factor for people living in the Gulf region,” says Dr Fatma.
“Studies have shown that, due to the air conditioned environments, many are not drinking enough water because they don’t feel thirsty. An intake of around two to three litres of water per day is vital for good skin and strong healthy hair,” she adds.
Skin Cancer and Over Exposure to UV rays
With the skin being the largest organ in the human body, skin cancer can strike anywhere; however, for those with no genetic predisposition to the disease, Dr Fatma warns that unprotected exposure to the harsh desert sunlight can also be a trigger for the condition – especially in those with very pale skin. It is particularly important for those who are more at risk to apply (and regularly re-apply) sun block – and not just when at the beach, she says.
On an issue of less severity to health, it is also widely known that excessive exposure to the sun’s UV (ultra violet) rays can cause dry and premature aging of the skin. Dr Fatma’s recommendation to avoid these conditions is to regularly use a sunscreen with a minimum SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher.
Affecting around 20 per cent of children across the world as well as many adults, UHS’s Dermatology Department has specialists who regularly deal with the common condition of atopic eczema.
Dr Fatma said this condition was common among those with a family history of asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay fever) with the condition often causing irritating skin rashes on the elbows, knees and neck. Atopic eczema tends to be visible on the patient with the skin turning dry, flaky and often becoming very itchy.
While oral medication or topical creams can offer relief to the condition, Dr Fatma also recommends keeping the patient’s skin hydrated and the air cool and moist – with room humidifiers – and avoiding dusty and pollen-rich environments.
Reverting to the issue of a good diet being the foundation of all round health, Dr Fatma says that eczema patients who visit UHS are also monitored for food allergies. In such cases where they are identified, those foods should be avoided and breast feeding is a must for an ectopic baby.
In summary, Dr Fatma’s top tips and advice on healthy skin and hair care are:
- Eat a balanced diet
- Stay hydrated
- UAE’s desalinated water supply does not induce exaggerated hair loss
- Frequently dying hair and hair straightening can cause long-term damage
- Regularly wear a sun cream with a minimum of SPF 30
- Reduce exposure to intense sunlight to prevent premature aging