A dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of conditions that affect the skin, nails and hair. Some of these conditions include, but are not limited to, acne, eczema, psoriasis, skin cancer, moles, melanomas and skin tumors. The American Board of Dermatology certifies dermatologists.
In the U.S., dermatologists must undergo rigorous training and graduate from an accredited medical school or osteopathic school in order to be qualified. Dermatologists that graduate from medical schools outside of the United States are required by law to obtain a foreign graduate certificate before they are permitted to practice dermatology. Just like other medical doctors, dermatologists have been trained and have completed at least one year in a residency program for clinical training in emergency medicine, family practice, gynecology and obstetrics, pediatrics, general surgery or internal medicine. Dermatologists are considered medical specialists, as they are fully trained medical doctors who have undergone specialized training in matters pertaining to skin conditions.
A person with a skin condition, such as eczema, psoriasis or skin cancer, is most likely referred to a dermatologist by their regular doctor. Because of their specialized training, a dermatologist is better suited to treat skin conditions or assist in managing them. Often, the treatment that they offer includes dermabrasion or chemical peels, laser resurfacing, tissue augmentation, hair transplants, liposuction or sclerotherapy (to treat vascular malformations). Specially trained in the latest, most effective surgical techniques, a dermatologist is also an expert in managing skin disorders that accompany aging, such as hair loss, skin discolorations and other skin changes. Some even specialize in cosmetic treatments, such as botox injections, collagen injections and eyelid surgery.
Though already deemed a specialist in the care of skin conditions, some dermatologists further specialize in other treatments. For instance, a dermatopathologist specializes in infectious skin diseases or those that are immune system related or degenerative. Such doctors specialize in microscopic examinations useful in identifying these diseases. Often these specialists even work in hospital settings where contagious skin infections sometimes occur.
Other dermatology specialists include pediatric dermatology. These doctors work specifically with childhood skin conditions, such as eczema and other skin allergies common in childhood. These dermatological specialists are generally part of a larger medical team used to treat children who often have very complex medical conditions with multiple symptoms.
Eczema is another area where a dermatologist may treat a large number of children. Characterized by red, scaly or leathery-looking skin that sometimes oozes and becomes crusty, eczema is a skin condition that largely affects infants and young children. As it is commonly associated with an allergic reaction and dermatologists are specially trained to treat skin allergies, their care is usually recommended. To treat eczema symptoms in children, a dermatologist may prescribe either a topical or an oral cortocosteroid medication, as well as recommend home skin care regimens to lessen the severity of eczema’s affects. Though most children eventually outgrow eczema, some do not and the condition is carried over into adulthood. Therefore, many dermatologists also treat adult patients with eczema.
When most people think of a dermatologist, teen acne is perhaps the first type of treatment they associate with this specialty. Acne is characterized by the appearance of pimples, blotchy skin, cysts, whiteheads or blackheads. These eruptions are the result of bacteria and oil, which blocks the skin’s pores and causes mild to severe skin eruptions. For persistent or very severe cases of acne, a dermatologist is sought for treatment and relief. The treatment offered may include the dermatologist draining the pimples or cysts with specially designed instruments and a dermatologist may prescribe medications to specifically target and reduce acne problems. In cases where acne scarring has occurred, a dermatologist may perform collagen injections, dermabrasion, a chemical peel or laser surgery to correct the appearance of unsightly pit marks and scars.
Psoriasis is another skin condition that a dermatologist may be called upon to treat. Most commonly affecting adults, psoriasis can also be found in children. Characterized by inflamed, thick, discolored patches of skin, psoriasis is actually caused by an overreaction of the immune system. While most cases are mild to moderate, some patients with psoriasis actually experience arthritic symptoms, and loss of fingernails and toenails as a result of this condition. While most cases of psoriasis can be treated with over the counter or home styled remedies, in these more severe cases a dermatologist may be called upon for specialized treatment and to help a person with psoriatic arthritis manage daily life.
A dermatologist is also routinely recommended for the proper diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers, melanomas, moles and skin tumors. These highly trained specialists are best suited for treatment, as they have been trained to recognize its symptoms, diagnose and administer the best patient care in these areas. A dermatologist may perform skin biopsies, surgical excisions, special procedures to remove tumors (medically referred to as Mohs micrographic surgery), cryosurgery (freezing cancer growths using liquid nitrogen), topical chemotherapy or any other number of procedures they are specially trained to administer.
While many may think of a dermatologist as merely being an acne doctor for teenagers, a closer look at this specialized field of medicine reveals a lot more. As the skin is the largest organ on the body, a dermatologist plays a very important role in the medical profession as this specialist is called upon to treat a wide variety of common, rare and serious skin conditions and diseases. Trained in performing everything from diagnoses to extensive and very delicate surgical procedures, a dermatologist is a specialist deserving of the same respect as a heart surgeon or another uniquely qualified medical doctor.