Absolutely! Did you know that your skin is an organ of your body? It is even the largest of the body's organs. Its main purpose is to act as a shield by protecting your insides from external stress. Your skin also plays an important part in your appearance. By taking care of your skin, you help it do its job and you look healthy, too.
Protector - Your skin takes quite a beating! It comes into contact with harmful agents, such as bacteria, viruses, and chemicals, and it works to protect your body from their effects. It also helps regulate your body temperature. For instance, to cool down, your sweat glands go to work for you. The skin can do all this while withstanding everyday attacks from the environment: sun, wind, heat, dryness, cold weather, pollution, and cigarette smoke.
Your skin also reflects your health. Your skin interacts with other organs. It can alert you to health problems that may be going on inside your body. Dermatologists are experts at pinpointing skin signs of systemic disease.
Here are some simple steps most people can take to protect their skin:
Proper care of the skin also should include the help of a dermatologist. Dermatologists are physicians who specialize in medical, surgical, and cosmetic skin care. They receive extensive training to help keep skin healthy, and to treat skin problems.
After completing medical school and a year of hospital internship in general medicine, general surgery, or pediatrics, dermatologists have at least three more years of intensive medical and surgical residency training. Dermatology training focuses on the medical, surgical, and cosmetic care of the skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes (the "wet skin" of the mouth and genital area). Board-certified dermatologists have completed this training and passed a comprehensive test given by the American Board of Dermatology. About 8,500 board-certified dermatologists practice in the United States.
A dermatologist can help you care for your skin in important ways:
Dermatologists diagnose skin disease quickly and effectively by noting your symptoms and checking your entire skin. They then give you options for proven treatments. If you have any symptoms of skin disease, see a dermatologist as soon as possible.
Dermatologists can also help you prevent unnecessary damage to your skin from the sun or the elements of wind and temperature. They do this through education and by showing you how to examine your skin for signs of skin cancer or other skin problems.
Dermatologists are also skin surgeons. They often perform surgery on the skin to remove cancer and other growths. Skin biopsy (taking a small piece of skin) is done to help make a correct diagnosis.
Dermatologists can improve the appearance of skin damaged by aging, sunlight, or disease. This includes the removal of wrinkles, brown spots, and broken blood vessels. Some ways they do this include filler injections (such as with collagen or fat), chemical peels (a form of skin rejuvenation), liposuction (a type of fat removal), and laser treatments.
No. Dermatologists treat people of all ages. Skin problems can affect everyone from newborns to older adults. You or your family members should see a dermatologist whenever you have symptoms of skin trouble. Nearly everyone will have some kind of skin problem in his or her lifetime. The skin's protective barrier can break down due to age, disease, or other factors. Your dermatologist can help you watch for the long-term effects of aging and disease, and also help prevent skin problems.
Some adults regularly visit a dermatologist to help find conditions such as skin cancer early. Since skin cancer is the most common cancer, it is a good idea to regularly see a dermatologist for skin check-ups.
A visit when early signs of sun damage appear, such as wrinkles and brown spots, may be advantageous.
Dermatologists have many effective medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatments for problems of the skin, hair, and nails. Here are some common conditions they treat:
Acne affects most teenagers, but adults can get acne too. One survey placed acne as the most often treated skin disorder. Early medical treatment can reduce scarring due to acne. Acne scarring can be treated with dermatologic surgery.
Splotching, wrinkles, facial or leg broken blood vessels, fat deposits, and unwanted hair can be treated with dermatologic surgery by your dermatologist.
The herpes simplex virus can cause blisters called cold sores. There are two types of the virus. Herpes can occur around the mouth, nose, buttocks, genitals, and sometimes elsewhere. Treatment can control outbreaks and possibly help prevent the spread of infection.
Hair loss can occur for many reasons, the most common of which is hereditary baldness. New medicines may help reduce baldness in some people. Another treatment option is a hair transplant, which involves moving small strips of hair follicles from the back and sides of your scalp to the balding areas.
Other names for hives are "wheals" and "welts." These itchy swellings occur in groups on any part of the skin. Sometimes they sting or burn. Each wheal lasts a few hours before fading away, leaving no trace. Reactions to foods, drugs, and other allergies can cause hives.
Problems with your fingernails or toenails could be a sign of a health problem. See a dermatologist if your nails are thick, tough, painful, have scaling, white spots, red lines, or brown and/or black streaks on them.
Can be due to many causes including skin conditions (such as dry skin or dermatitis), medicine, and internal problems. A dermatologist can usually identify the cause of the itching and start appropriate treatment.
Psoriasis is a persistent skin disease. In psoriasis, the skin forms red, thick patches covered by silvery scales. Eczema can be itchy or painful and have many causes. Hand eczema may start with dryness or may be an allergy. Athlete's foot rash can be successfully treated.
A virus causes warts. Warts usually are skin-colored and feel rough. Warts can grow anywhere on the skin, but most occur on the hands. Plantar (foot) and genital warts are also common.
Dermatologists have special expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of basal cell and squamous cell cancers as well as melanoma. Early detection can mean a cure after excision using dermatologic surgery techniques.
There are more than 2000 different skin diseases. Only a dermatologist has the knowledge to recognize them and offer the best chance for management through medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatments.
You can expect several things during your visit:
When appropriate, dermatologists prescribe medicines, such as creams or pills. They are trained to prescribe drugs that have the best chance of helping you.
Advances in dermatologic surgery, dermatopharmacology, dermatopathology, pediatric dermatology, medical dermatology, and immunologic dermatology provide new avenues for healing skin problems faster and better.