A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in treating the skin, hair, and nails. They can also treat conditions related to the mucous membranes, such as those of the mouth, nose, and eyelids. Dermatologists see some patients regularly (for example, for an annual skin cancer screening) and others as needed when there is a problem such as a skin rash or infection.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, dermatologists can diagnose and treat several thousand conditions, from acne and dandruff to psoriasis and cellulite. In addition , they can offer advice on the care and protection of your skin, depending on its type.
You can also go to a dermatologist for a cosmetic procedure or treatment, for example, to improve the texture and tone of your skin or to minimize the appearance of wrinkles or scars.
Dermatologists treat a wide variety of skin conditions and reactions. They can diagnose and treat skin, nail, or hair conditions, such as :
Dermatologists can order and perform a variety of medical tests and procedures related to skin conditions, damage, or aging in the sun.
Some dermatologists may offer a wider selection of these than others, and some may have specific specialties in one or more areas.
Treatments and surgeries performed by dermatologists for medical reasons include:
- Allergy tests , which involve piercing the skin with a small amount of an allergen to see if there is a reaction.
- Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) , skin light therapy that can be used to kill bacteria and treat acne and other skin conditions.
- Excision , surgical removal of skin cancer, or benign growth
- Electric curettage and desiccation (ED&C) , a procedure that uses an instrument called a curette to scrape away skin tissue. The area is then cauterized to stop bleeding.
- Mohs surgery , a procedure done in stages and with a careful examination to remove skin cancer while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible
- A skin biopsy , which removes cells or tissue from the skin for examination and helps diagnose conditions such as skin cancer.
- Removal of skin cysts with injection or drainage and minor surgery.
- Cryotherapy a procedure to freeze areas of the skin with liquid nitrogen, used to treat conditions such as warts or seborrheic keratosis (benign growths that look like warts)
- A skin graft is a procedure in which healthy skin, often from another location on the human body, is attached to a damaged area (for example, one that has been burned).
- Local chemotherapy is a prescription drug applied to the skin to treat actinic keratosis (precancerous growths caused by sun exposure) or skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma .
Procedures performed by some dermatologists, which are performed primarily to improve appearance and are not considered medically necessary, include:
- Microdermabrasion treatments to improve skin texture and tone, and eliminate wrinkles and scars.
- Derma planning to remove deep acne scars
- Derma filler injections that are injected under the skin to reduce the appearance of wrinkles or scars.
- Botox , a common dermal filler injection that uses botulinum toxin and blocks nerve signals to prevent wrinkles and minimize existing wrinkles (other uses: eye contractions and migraine prevention / treatment)
- A chemical peel , in which a chemical solution is applied to the skin to make the outer layer peel off.
- Minor cosmetic surgery that can be performed under local anesthesia (such as tumescent liposuction )
- Laser skin resurfacing for a precise burn of damaged skin
- Shave removal to remove some of the safe skin growth for cosmetic purposes.
- Sclerotherapy , treatment to minimize the appearance of varicose veins or spider veins.
- Remove tattoos often with laser
- Hair transplantation involves the implantation of healthy hair from other areas of the scalp in the area of hair loss.
All dermatologists are trained in four areas of dermatology: medical dermatology, cosmetic dermatology, surgical dermatology, and dermatopathology.
However, a dermatologist may choose to specialize in one of these specific areas, making it the primary and, in some cases, the only area of their practice :
- Medical dermatology – A dermatologist diagnoses, treats, and helps prevent conditions that can affect the skin, hair, and nails.
- Surgical dermatology: A dermatologist treats conditions that affect the skin, hair, and nails with surgical procedures, such as removal of skin cancer.
- Cosmetic dermatology: A dermatologist uses treatments to improve the appearance of the skin, hair, and nails. Cosmetic dermatology is for cosmetic purposes and is not an essential component of good health. It includes treatments such as filler injections for a more youthful appearance, chemical peels, hair transplants, and laser surgery to reduce the appearance of skin conditions such as scars, wrinkles, and varicose veins.
- Dermatopathology – A dermatologist specializing in dermatology and pathology. They examine samples of skin, hair, and nails to diagnose and treat disease.
Many dermatologists also participate in additional training to gain experience in more specific areas of dermatology, such as pediatrics or certain types of surgery.
Training and Certification
As with most medical careers, becoming a dermatologist requires significant education. An aspiring dermatologist must complete a bachelor's degree and attend medical school before becoming a physician (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO). They will then undergo an internship and at least three years of residency training .
In addition to this, a dermatologist can earn board certification by obtaining a license to practice medicine or by passing examinations from the American Board of Dermatology , the American Osteopathic Association, or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada .
What does FAAD mean?
FAAD is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). When a dermatologist has the letters FAAD after their name, it means they are certified. You can find FAAD near you by looking for your zip code in the organization 's directory of dermatologists .
A board certified dermatologist must retest every 10 years to retain the title. It is vital that a dermatologist, whether certified or not, follow industry developments while continuing their education, attending refresher courses, and reading highly acclaimed industry publications and magazines such as the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology .
Patients are usually referred to a dermatologist by their doctor. And in many cases, health plans require a formal referral from your PCP.
However, in some cases, you can avoid visiting your family doctor and making an appointment with a dermatologist:
- If you find a lesion that you suspect may be skin cancer
- If you have risk factors that increase your chances of developing skin cancer, such as a history of fair skin and sunburn, or a family history of skin cancer.
Always check with your insurance company before scheduling an appointment.
If you don't have health insurance, you can ask your dermatologist's office if they offer any discounts or a sliding scale based on income.
It is also recommended that everyone see a dermatologist once a year for a complete skin exam for cancer .
During your appointment, point out any changes in moles or skin irregularities and ask about any concerns, such as dry skin or pimples. Never think that your skin changes are too small to mention.
To prepare for your appointment and provide your dermatologist with helpful information:
- Write a list of skin changes or problems. This includes irregularly shaped moles (asymmetric or jagged), new or changing bumps, or discoloration. You should also bring a list of questions to make sure you don't forget anything during the appointment.
- Bring copies of relevant test results , if applicable.
- Pay attention to all the medications and supplements you take, as some of them may have side effects that can affect your skin or cause skin reactions.
- Take photos of ingredient lists for products (skin cleansers, soaps, oils, serums, and lotions), especially if you have rashes or areas of irritation. Do the same with your laundry detergent.
Prepare for a complete skin exam. You may be asked to remove your underwear so that all regions can be thoroughly searched for suspicious areas. A dermatologist may use a magnifying device to look closely at specific areas and may ask you to photograph moles and growths for your medical record to check for changes on future visits.
To make it easier for a dermatologist to examine your skin:
- Remove your nail polish so a dermatologist can take a closer look at your nails and nail beds, which are areas where skin cancer can occur.
- Wear loose hair, ties, or hairpins that can be easily removed so the dermatologist can take a close look at the scalp .
- Do not wear makeup or pack a makeup remover that you can use before taking it so that all areas of your face and around your eyes are clearly visible.
- Do not wear jewelry as it can cover the skin.
Get the word of drug information
If you have health insurance, always check to see if you need a referral from your PCP before seeing a dermatologist and if your plan requires you to go to a network provider. And if the dermatological practice is independent, never assume they accept insurance. Some don't, so it's important to find out.
If you visit a dermatologist for cosmetic reasons, it is important to obtain detailed information about the costs in his office, since the insurance often does not cover the associated procedures.