A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in disorders of the skin, hair and nails. People may need to see a skin specialist for a wide range of reasons and in all kinds of settings, including in acute hospital, specialized dermatology clinics, or at a general medical centre. Skin conditions can be painful, unsightly, and even dangerous, and so require specialist intervention. Skin doctors are experts in the diagnosis of skin diseases ranging from mild to severe, and in treatments from urgent medical intervention through to purely cosmetic therapy.
As the skin is the body’s largest and most visible organ, skin conditions can have a serious impact on the well-being and confidence of sufferers. Skin disease can be painful, debilitating, and unsightly. Dermatologists’ work often involves cosmetic treatments, and they sometimes work with plastic surgeons in more complex cases to improve appearance.
Skin conditions can be related to diseases in other parts of the body, and so dermatologists often work closely with doctors from other specialities like immunology or rheumatology and have good referral links to these areas.
As well as medical treatments, dermatologists can give expert advice on preventing future problems and maintaining healthy, beautiful skin through diet, skincare, and lifestyle.
Pediatric dermatologists specialize in children’s skin conditions, which can need different treatment to an adult’s. Eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis, while common, may require extra careful management in children. Pediatric dermatologists will also treat sensitive problems common in a teenage skin, like the face or scalp acne.
People may need to see a skin doctor for long-term (chronic) or short-term (acute) conditions. A dermatologist can assess, diagnose, and treat common skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea. They can prescribe topical treatments – medicines that are applied to the skin in the form of creams, ointments or lotions; phototherapy – treatment with UV light, often for psoriasis; and medication taken by mouth to improve skin conditions. Some skin problems are the visible aspect of diseases that can affect the whole of the body, for example autoimmune conditions like lupus.
As dermatology involves a lot of visual assessment, it’s best if you can choose a doctor who you can have a longer-term professional relationship with, as they will be able to assess your skin for changes over time.
Dermatologists also identify and treat skin cancers. There is now a wide range of treatments for skin cancer, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery. A dermatologist will choose the best course of treatment based on their assessment of the skin lesion. Skin cancer is one of the most common, and also the most successfully treatable, cancers worldwide.
The skin is the first thing people see, and more and more people are opting for cosmetic and medical interventions like acne treatment and other therapies to improve the appearance of the skin, and sometimes to reduce the signs of aging. Some dermatologists specialize in these cosmetic treatments, and can offer treatments like microdermabrasion to improve scars from acne, surgery, or childhood illness. Some dermatology clinics also offer other cosmetic procedures like laser hair removal, or treatments to reduce the appearance of birthmarks or tattoos.