Dermatology is the branch of medicine that deals with health conditions connected to the skin, hair, mucuos membranes and nails. A dermatologist is the healthcare professional who is specialized in this particular field of medicine.
The field of dermatology is extremely important because its main field of study and management is the skin. Being the largest organ in the body, it acts as a barrier and protects all internal organs from bacteria and injury. Naturally, this makes it a great indicator of the overall body health. Therefore, a dermatologist is a prominent healthcare professional as he/she can spot some changes in skin that can later on save many other organs in the body if caught on time.
So, what are the most common skin conditions? What does a dermatologist exactly do? Which methods and medications are the best for the treatment of skin conditions? All of these questions appear right after someone gets sick or notices an unusual change in the body. But, do we really have to wait until the disease already takes over? Not really! It’s always good to educate and prepare yourself before anything happens. So, here is an overview of dermatology, its field of study, the role of a dermatologist and the most common skin conditions so you can get all the facts and educate yourself in the best possible way.
Who is a Dermatologist?
Dermatologist is a healthcare professional that specializes in the field of dermatology. He diagnosis and treats all conditions related to skin, hair, nails and mucuos membranes. Additionally, a dermatologist can provide support for certain cosmetic issues with revitalizing patient’s hair, skin and nails. If you have any particular problem with skin, you should immediately consult your dermatologist.
A dermatologist has four years of specialized training and a medical degree. Dermatologists are initially trained as doctors and have to undertake six or more years of University study in order to gain their medical degree. Afterwards, they go through a couple of additional years of full-time training. During that time, future dermatologists practice as junior hospital doctors in a teaching hospital. Only then can dermatologists enter The National Dermatology Training Program which lasts for four years.
A dermatologist has had extensive training and experience in:
- Diagnosis and treatment of moles, skin cancers, melanomas and other tumors of the skin
- Interpretations of skin biopsis
- Management of contact dermatitis and all other inflammatory disorders
- Diagnosis of all skin manifestations of infectious and systemic diseases
- Surgical techniques in dermatology
Classification of Skin Diseases
Skin diseases can be classified and categorized in many ways and here are some of them:
- classification that depends on the site of skin condition appearance such as lesions, sun-exposed sites and facial rashes
- classification of main structures such as abnormalities of melanocytes, epidermal diseases and vascular changes
- pathogenesis that includes infectious aetiology, autoimmune mechanisms and genetic abnormalities
There are still many attempts to categorize and name skin conditions. Furthermore, confusion in terminology results in a few names for the same condition. On the other hand, several distinctive disorders have the same name.
Obviously, the field of dermatology is very broad and every dermatologist is looking for ways to improve given classifications. Naturally, these are evolving as the field of dermatology expands.
What are most common Skin Conditions?
Believe it or not, dermatologists can treat more than 3,000 distinct diseases. This only indicates how many skin conditions exist and can cause problems to people who experience them. It’s impossible to list all of them, but here are some of the most common skin conditions:
Acne: Acne is one of the most common skin diseases that affect people of all ages. According to Ang Skin & Hair Clinic, it affects oil glands of the skin and has many causes that eventually lead to the appearance of pimples. Acne can often result in low self-esteem, scarring and even depression.
Vitiligo: This is a skin condition in which the skin loses melanin and that eventually leads to spots of lighter colored skin.
Fungal infections: Fungal infections are very common and they can affect nails, hair and skin. Although the symptoms are rather mild, people with reduced immunity can often have more serious symptoms. Candida, which is a group of yeasts, can cause a wide variety of infections. Some of them include balanitis and oral thrush.
Dermatitis and eczema: Dermatitis represents the inflammation of the skin and usually results in itchy rash and swelling. There are many different forms of dermatitis and some examples are atopic, seborrheic and contact dermatitis. Naturally, each type affects the skin in a completely different way. According to The National Skin Centre Singapore, dermatitis and eczema affects 1 out of 10 people at some time in their life.
Nail problems: A dermatologist treats all conditions that are affecting the nails as well. The most common nail problems include ingrowing toenails and fungal infections. As with any symptom, nail problems can indicate that there is another underlying condition.
Skin cancer: Without a doubt, this is one of the most severe skin conditions. According to HealthXchange.sg, skin cancer is the eight most common in Singapore and makes up about 60% of all skin cancers. There are many different forms and some of them are squamos cell carcinoma, melanoma and carcinoma (BCC).
Psoriasis: This is an autoimmune, chronic skin condition that improves the speeding up the growth of skin cells. The rapid growth can result in red, thick skin and silvery scales. Also, there are a few types of psoriasis and these conditions sometimes resemble of eczema. According to The National Skin Center, psoriasis affects about 1-2% of the population in Singapore.
Symptoms of Skin Disorders
There are so many skin conditions so it’s completely normal that there are numerous symptoms as well. Sometimes the symptoms that appear on the skin aren’t always an indicator of a skin disorder. Blisters from tight shoes or chafing from tight pants are perfect examples of such minor problems. On the other hand, skin problems that appear without an obvious cause can indicate that there is an actual skin disorder that requires treatment.
So, here are some of the symptoms that may require an immediate consult with your dermatologist:
- a painful or itchy rash
- red or white raised bumps
- peeling skin
- rough or scaly skin
- lesions or open sores
- discolored patches of skin
- dry, cracked skin
- warts or flashy bumps
- a loss of skin pigment
- changes in mole size or color
- excessive flushing
Methods and Procedures for Treatment
Skin Grafts and Flaps: Repairing missing skin is one of the methods that dermatologists commonly perform. It is done by moving the skin from other spots on the body to an area that needs to be repaired. A dermatologist can graft the skin from a free piece of tissue without the blood supply. The other option is to create a skin flap from tissue that is near the area of skin loss.
Biopsies: The purpose of carrying out biopsies is to diagnose (or rule out) certain skin conditions. There are three types of biopsies and they include shave, punch and excision biopsies.
Cryotherapy: This is a very common way of treating many benign skin conditions such as warts. Using liquid nitrogen, skin lesions are frozen in order to destroy the damaged skin cells.
Hair Transplantation: Hair loss that affects many people around the world can be treated with a hair transplant or even surgery to the scalp. Removing unwanted body hair with electrolysis or laser hair epilation is also a possible treatment method. The price of a hair transplant depends on the number of grafts transplanted and many other factors as well. Here is the table of the price range of hair transplantation.
Cosmetic Injections: Injections can temporarily treat scarring, lost facial fullness and wrinkles. Possible method options are injecting filters such as collagen and fat as well as botulinum toxin therapy. Results of this treatment ought to last for a couple of months, so injections need to be repeated systematically.
Laser Surgery: A dermatologist can use a special light beam in order to treat a wide variety of skin conditions. These include moles, birthmarks, warts, tumors, tattoos, wrinkles, scars and unwanted hair.
Dermabrasion: Dermatologists can remove the top layer of the skin by using a high-speed rotating brush. It destroys tattoos, fine wrinkles, scar tissue and skin patches.
Preventing Skin Disorders
Of course, certain skin diseases are not preventable and all you can do is listen to your dermatologist. However, there are many things you can actually do by yourself without paying a visit to a dermatologist. Here are some tips for preventing infectious skin conditions:
- Avoiding to share utensils and glasses with other people
- Frequently washing hands
- Avoiding to share personal items such as swimsuits, hairbrushes or clothes
- Avoiding contact with people who have an infection
- Cleaning things in public spaces before using them – such as as gym equipment
- Washing clothes and towels after each use
- Wearing moisture-wicking clothes
- Limiting sun exposure
When to See a Dermatologist
People with serious symptoms of a disease that is affecting hair, mucuos membranes, nails and skin should immediately see a dermatologist. Paying a visit to a dermatologist should especially be the case if the condition is not responding to home treatment.
People with certain cosmetic concerns can also consult a cosmetic dermatologist. Moreover, everyone who is seeking skin cancer examination is ought to visit a dermatologist.
Overall, dermatology is an important field of medicine that deals with many common skin problems that people experience. A dermatologist is a healthcare professional that specializes in treating and diagnosing all skin conditions. Thus, paying a visit to your dermatologist is extremely important if you notice any skin changes.
However, there are so many things that people can do in order to educate themselves and prevent skin conditions from developing. Learning about proper treatment and skin care can be crucial for skin health. As mentioned earlier, some skin conditions require the attention of a dermatologist. Finally, you should definitely learn about skin disorders or talk to your dermatologist to determine the best possible treatment for you.