A dermatologist is a physician who specializes in treating conditions of the hair, nails and skin in both children and adult patients. The role of dermatologists varies and includes diagnosing and treating minor and major skin-related problems. Although people generally think of dermatologists as treating medical problems, they also manage cosmetic skin issues, such as dealing with wrinkles, scarring or signs of premature aging.
Diagnosis of Skin Disorders
Dermatologists are responsible for accurately diagnosing a patients’ condition by examining the skin and noting accompanying health symptoms. Some conditions are simple to diagnosis and may require a simple visual examination of the affected area; others may require a combination of skin biopsies and blood tests. It is vital a dermatologist diagnose conditions accurately and promptly so they can administer the appropriate treatment. Typical conditions dermatologists handle include acne, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and fungal infections. Dermatologists also deal with skin cancers and suspect birthmarks.
Selecting Appropriate Treatments
Dermatologists manage many chronic skin diseases such as psoriasis that are incurable but treatable. A dermatologist will deal with a patient long-term to continually adapt treatments offered, often alternating topical creams, systemic drugs or phototherapy light treatments. Dermatologists may also perform some cosmetic procedures to improve the overall appearance of the skin. These include dermabrasion techniques that remove several layers of skin to make it appear “newer” and more radiant or laser therapy to remove age spots, thread veins and reduce skin discoloration.
A dermatologist uses a variety of techniques to both treat and diagnose disorders and irritations. These include taking skin scrapings, mole removal and tissue samples from the patient. Experts analyze these samples under a microscope using biological and chemical tests to determine the best course of treatment for the patient. A dermatologist may also remove moles that show signs of change to be further investigated and analyzed.
Research and Teaching
As dermatologists are experts in their field, many undertake clinical research into one or more skin condition. Dermatologists may also give seminars in medical schools or workshops to family doctors about dealing with minor skin conditions. As with all members of the medical profession, dermatologists must also continually keep up to date with new drugs and related legislation. For dermatologists to remain certified they must re-take examinations supplied by the American Board of Dermatology every ten years.