Dermatology: Understanding the Specialty
At some point in your lifetime, there is a high chance that you will face a skin condition. Whether it’s acne, eczema, stubborn moles, dry skin, or a painful sunburn, we all experience mild to severe conditions on the largest organ system of the body. And before you ask, yes- your skin is an organ!
For skin disorders that aren’t going away on their own or that need longer-term treatment, many people turn to a dermatologist for help. Over 8,000 dermatologists exist in the U.S. alone. Today, we’ll explore the specialty of dermatology.
What is a dermatologist?
A dermatologist is someone who practices dermatology, which focuses on treating conditions of the skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes. Dermatologists are board-certified by the American Board of Dermatology, the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology, or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. To be board-certified, dermatologists must have completed medical school and residency.
Dermatologists can provide advice and prescription medication for a variety of diseases and disorders, many of which may be affecting a person’s everyday life. While dermatologists can help treat disorders that have painful symptoms or high health risks, they also treat conditions that may focus on aesthetics. For some people, skin, hair, and nails play a big role in confidence and self-esteem. Dermatologists are incredibly useful when there is concern with aspects of appearance. From removing a birthmark to treating uneven skin tone, scars, or stretch marks, dermatologists have the ability to help people feel and look their best.
What conditions can dermatologists help treat?
Dermatologists can treat over 3,000 existing conditions. They have the qualifications and training to perform skin grafts, cosmetic treatments, skin lesion removals, biopsies, laser surgery, and other procedures. Below you’ll find a number of common conditions dermatologists help treat.
• Acne: Acne can persist well after puberty. Dermatologists may prescribe medication when over-the-counter products don’t work.
• Eczema: Irritation, itchy and flaky skin can indicate eczema, which can be managed with the help of a dermatologist.
• Hair loss: Whether from aging or medical treatments, hair loss can appear for many reasons.
• Rosacea: This causes red, splotchy, bumpy skin and is most commonly displayed in middle-aged women with fair skin.
• Warts: Warts are harmless but contagious skin growths that can go away on their own or be removed by a dermatologist.
• Moles: While most are harmless, some moles can turn out to be skin cancer. It’s important to get them checked regularly for changes in size, shape, or coloring for early prevention and treatment of skin cancer.
• Dermatitis: Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin which can cause swelling and a rash. Psoriasis: With a similar appearance to eczema, psoriasis speeds up the growth of skin cells, causing thick, red skin and silvery scales.
• Skin cancer: Skin cancer affects millions of people each year. With early treatment, it can be non-threatening.
How do I know if I should go see a dermatologist?
Some skin conditions may go away with time, like acne or sunburns, but if you’re finding that over-the-counter treatments aren’t helping, you have concerns about a suspicious mole that may be skin cancer, or are enduring painful, uncomfortable, or unwanted symptoms of a condition, it might be time to find a dermatologist.
At your next visit, you can prepare by checking with your insurance company to see what services are covered, bringing a list of medications you are currently taking, and preparing a list of questions. Dermatologists can offer lifestyle advice or tips on what products to buy and how to use them. They may perform a procedure or refer you to another doctor. Regardless, it’s important to raise any concerns or questions involving your health with your dermatologist. Sometimes, certain skin, hair, and nail conditions can be a sign of other health problems. It may be a way your body is telling you that something isn’t right, making it that much more important to address it as quickly as possible.