FROM ACNE TO menstrual cramps, many conditions traditionally associated with teenagers continue into adulthood. Hong Kong accountant Simone Lockard, 29, has suffered from 'embarrassingly dry and itchy skin' since she was a child. 'When I finished studying and started full-time work, it became a bigger deal,' she says. 'I wanted to be confident when I met new people, but eczema doesn't really do much for your confidence.' Lockard isn't alone. Many people suffer such problems into adulthood - and it's never too late to take action. Here are possible solutions to the ailments we don't always outgrow. Eczema Mei Tam, a member of the Australasian College of Dermatologists, says eczema - characterised by dry and itchy skin - is common in children and can be aggravated by climate change and stress. 'Most children improve with age if they belong to the mild spectrum of the disease, but patients with moderate to severe conditions don't clear up completely.' Tam says that, from her experience, Asians tend to suffer from the condition more than Caucasians. Solution Although there's no cure for eczema, steps can be taken to prevent it worsening. Tam suggests using soap substitutes and moisturisers for sensitive and eczema-prone skin. She says it's best to use lukewarm water when showering and to avoid wool and synthetic materials, which can aggravate the skin. Topical creams and ointments suit Lockard's condition, but more severe cases of eczema require tablets or phototherapy, says Tam. It's best to consult a dermatologist for an assessment. Lactose intolerance Ji Kaiyu, gastroenterologist at Beijing United Family Hospital, says it's common for some people's stomachs to churn (literally) at the thought of a glass of milk. 'Becoming intolerant to certain foods can and does occur at any stage of our lives,' Ji says. Lactose intolerance occurs when the body stops making lactase, an enzyme produced in the small intestine that's needed to digest milk. 'Babies produce lactase, as do older children,' he says. 'As teenagers develop into young adults, lactase isn't produced any more and this can affect some people more than others.' Ji says lactose intolerance is especially common across Asia, with up to 90 per cent of Asians experiencing it to some degree. 'Europeans breastfed and drank animal milk, whereas thousands of years ago, Asians didn't like to drink [animal] milk. It wasn't easy to get and, because the enzyme was never challenged, it wasn't produced in adulthood.' Emily Li, 24, says she used to take a lot of dairy products - warm milk in the morning, tubs of flavoured yogurt for a sweet afternoon fix. But now they're a thing of the past. 'I used to drink lots of milk and yoghurt, especially when I was studying, because it fills you up,' she says. 'I don't know when it happened, but I began to notice that, after having something like milk, I had stomach aches and felt sick. I still have it, but not as much.' Solution Ji suggests cutting back on lactose if stomach troubles are irregular and mild. If the symptoms are more severe and cause pain and discomfort, it's best to cut lactose from your diet completely and seek an alternative source of calcium. A doctor should assist with this. Irregular periods This is common during the first few years of menstruation and approaching menopause. Wong Ching-yin, senior doctor at the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong, says irregular bleeding during the reproductive years (20s to 40s) may signal a more serious condition, such as cervical cancer, but stress and weight problems can also lead to an irregular cycle. Solution Women with irregular cycles should consult a doctor immediately. Menstrual cramps Some women don't notice the onset of their period, but for others, life stops when it starts. 'I'd always experienced really heavy bleeding since my period started, which I can cope with,' says Melinda Huang, 31. 'It's the stomach cramps and lower back pain I don't handle well.' And not many women do, according to recent US statistics. Painful menstruation affects about 40 per cent of women and more than 140 million working hours are lost annually as a result of painful periods. There are two types of menstrual cramps, says Wong. Primary dysmenorrhoea occurs from the onset of menstruation and there's no underlying medical problem. This is considered normal, with women experiencing lower abdominal cramps, headaches, diarrhoea and nausea, which can be treated with painkillers. Secondary dysmenorrhoea is caused by an underlying problem. 'The pain is different in this case,' says Wong. 'Pain lasts throughout the cycle and is progressive, and often outside the cycle.' Solution Over-the-counter medicine can provide temporary comfort, as can hot-water bottles and chamomile tea. If medicine doesn't provide relief and menstrual cramping interrupts your daily activities, it's best to get a gynaecological check-up. Adult acne If pimples are still popping up, you're not alone. Dermatologist Tam says that more than 15 per cent of adults in Singapore aged from 20 to 40 still suffer from the condition. 'Acne isn't normal, but it's extremely common,' she says. 'Acne is caused by an overproduction of sebum and sticky cells by the oil glands, resulting in blockages. It's an inflammation of the trapped oil that causes pimples.' There are similar causes of acne in adults and teenagers, but most adult acne is caused by hormones from stress and menstruation, she says. Solution Mild acne can be treated with over-the-counter lotions and ointments, whereas others may need to use a combination of treatments. Try a course of antibiotics or anti-androgen treatment, depending on the severity, says Tam. 'For severe cases such as nodulocystic acne [multiple acne affecting the face, chest, and back, which can lead to scars], isotretinoin is the preferred medication.' The contraceptive pill has been popular in treating pimples and, according to aerobics instructor, Annetee Maine, 29, it works. 'My skin was a complete nightmare and I used to hate going out,' she says. 'I was so conscious of it that I could never let go and just enjoy myself. 'Some cautioned against taking the pill, but I just weighed up the pros and cons and I had to try it because I was getting really desperate.' Maine's skin has improved - as has her confidence. However, Tam says that the pill doesn't suit everyone, especially as a long-term solution. 'Patients who smoke, have blood clots or a history of breast cancer probably shouldn't be prescribed the pill.'