Do I really need to take
care of my skin?
Absolutely Yes! Your skin is an organ of
your body. It is the largest and most visible of the body’s organs and
one of the most complex because it interacts with many other organs.
It acts as a shield protecting your insides from external stress: disease,
infection and environmental factors such as the sun, wind and rain.
Your skin also plays an important part in your appearance.
What functions does the
It comes in contact with harmful agents,
such as bacteria, viruses and allergens (substances that can cause allergic
reactions), and it works to protect your body from their effects. It
also helps regulate your body temperature; for instance, to cool down,
you sweat when you exercise. The skin can do all this while withstanding
everyday assaults from the environment: sun, wind, heat, dryness, cold
weather, pollution and cigarette smoke. All these factors can damage
the skin, limiting its protective function.
How can I take care of
Windows of Health Your skin also reflects
your health. When you are healthy, your skin glows. When you do not
eat well or are under stress, your skin shows it.
Here are some simple steps most people
can take to protect their skin:
- If you have a normal or dry skin, use
moisturizers and gentle, non-drying cleansers.
- Help prevent skin cancer by daily using
sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) outside, wearing protective clothing
outdoors and avoiding overexposure to the sun and artificial tanning.
- Wear gloves when you wash dishes, use
harsh chemicals, garden, rake leaves and do other activities that
can be hard on your hands.
Proper care of the skin also should include
the help of a dermatologist. Dermatologists are physicians who specialize
in skin care. They receive extensive training to help keep skin healthy
and to treat skin problems.
What kind of training do
After medical school and a year of hospital
residency in general medicine, dermatologists have at least three more
years of intensive medical and surgical training. Dermatology residency
training focuses on 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.
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What role can a dermatologist
play in the care of my skin?
A dermatologist can help you care for your
skin in important ways:
- Diagnosis Dermatologists diagnose
skin disease quickly and effectively by noting your symptoms and checking
your skin. They then give you options for proven treatments. If you
have any symptoms of skin disease, see a dermatologist as soon as
- Prevention Dermatologists can also
help you prevent unnecessary damage to your skin. They do this through
education and by showing you how to examine your skin for signs of
skin cancer or other skin problems.
- Surgery Dermatologists are also skin
surgeons. They often perform surgery on the skin to prevent disease,
provide early control of disease or improve how the skin looks.
- Cosmetic Procedures Dermatologists
can improve the appearance of skin damage by aging, sunlight or disease.
Some ways they do this include chemical peels (a form of skin rejuvenation),
liposuction (a type of fat removal) and removal of skin growths, discoloration
or unwanted veins.
Is there a certain age
when people should first see a dermatologist?
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. Even if have never have had skin problems,
it is a good idea to see a dermatologist as an adult. Nearly everyone
will have some kind of skin problem in his or her lifetime. The skin
protective barrier can break down due to age, disease or other factors.
Your dermatologist can help you watch for the long-term effects of the
environment, aging and disease and also help prevent skin problems.
When might I benefit from
regular visits to a dermatologist?
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 checkups. You also should check your own skin for changes in
moles and for new lumps or discoloration.
What common problems do
dermatologists treat today?
Dermatologists have many effective medical
and surgical treatments for problems of the skin, hair and nails. Here
are some common conditions they treat:
Acne Acne is the term for plugged pores,
pimples and deeper lumps such as cysts that occur on the upper half
of the body. Acne affects most teenagers, but adults can get acne, too.
One survey placed acne as the most often treated skin disorder. Today,
medical treatment can reduce scarring due to acne.
Athlete’s Foot A fungal infection causes
athlete’s foot. Moisture, such as sweating, and tight shoes and socks
make the perfect setting for a fungus to grow on your feet.
Cold Sores The herpes simplex virus can
cause blisters called cold sores almost anywhere on a person’s skin.
The virus has two types. One tends to occur around the mouth and nose,
and the other often appears on the buttocks and genitals.
Hair Loss 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 plugs of hair-growing
skin from the back and sides of your scalp to the balding areas.
Hives Another name for hive is "wheals."
These ink swellings occur in groups on any part of the skin. Each wheal
lasts a few hours before fading away, leaving no trace. Hives usually
itch and may also sting or burn. Allergic reactions to foods, drugs
and other allergic triggers can cause hives.
Nail Problems Problems with your fingernails
or toenails could be a sign of a health problem. See a dermatologist
if your nails are thick, tough or painful or have scaling, white spots
or red lines on them.
Psoriasis Taking its name from the Greek
word for "itch", psoriasis is a persistent skin disease. In
psoriasis, the skin forms red, thick patches covered by silvery scales.
Most often psoriasis affects the scalp, elbows, knees and lower part
of the back. More than 5 million Americans have psoriasis.
Rashes Often called dermatitis, rashes
can become itchy painful. Rashes have may causes, including allergic
reactions, friction, prolonged exposure to heat and moisture, or contact
with irritants, such as harsh chemicals. Hand eczema is a common rash.
Many people with this problem start with dry, chapped hands that later
become red, scaly and swollen.
Warts A virus causes warts. The four
most common kinds of wart are hand, plantar (foot), flat and genital
warts. Warts usually are skin colored and feel rough.
What can I expect from
my visit to a dermatologist?
You can expect several things during you
- Interest in you, your skin problem and
- Medical expertise, history and a physical
exam relevant to your skin problem.
- Any needed testing, such as lab tests,
or a prescription for tests.
- An explanation of the condition, treatment
options and potential adverse reactions to medicines if prescribed.
- An estimated time and cost of the treatment
- Information about needed return visits
Will I need prescription
When appropriate, dermatologists recommend
medicines, such as creams or pills. They are trained to prescribe drugs
that have the best chance of helping and the least chance of harming
What changes are taking
place in the field of dermatology?
Many changes are occurring in this
field of medicine. Dermatologists have new ways to effectively treat
skin problems, so that their patients will get better faster.