What is a dermatologist?
A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions of the hair, nails, and skin. They can diagnose and treat more than 3,000 diseases of the skin, hair, and nails, as well as cosmetic concerns.
They are experts in skincare and have extensive knowledge and training in the management of cosmetic disorders of the skin (such as acne, warts, hair loss, birthmarks, and scars). They often deal with conditions that are more than just skin deep and may be associated with many diseases of the blood, organs, and organ systems.
Dermatologists may often perform specialized procedures for the diagnosis of conditions related to the skin. They may provide treatments such as:
- Topical (externally applied), injected, and oral medicines
- Ultraviolet (UV) light therapy
- Several surgical procedures on the skin
- Cosmetic procedures, such as chemical peels, micro-dermabrasion (a procedure to exfoliate the skin,) and sclerotherapy (a procedure commonly done to treat certain conditions of the blood vessels)
Dermatologists may have training and experience in areas such as:
- Electrosurgery (surgical use of high-frequency electric current for cutting or destroying tissue)
- Cryosurgery (it involves freezing tissue to treat conditions)
- Laser surgery
- Excision surgery (involving removal by cutting) with appropriate closures (including skin grafts)
What training do dermatologists have?
Dermatologists have extensive training in medicine and dermatology in which they learn to diagnose and treat various diseases of the skin, hair, and nails as well as cosmetic concerns. Their training includes:
- Four years of college to earn a bachelor’s degree
- Four years of medical school to become a medical doctor
- One year of internship
- Three years of residency, working along with experienced doctors and completing 12,000 to 16,000 hours of treating patients
- Some dermatologists may take further advanced training in specific areas, known as fellowships
Are there different types of dermatologists?
Some dermatologists may continue their medical training after becoming board-certified dermatologists. Specialties within dermatology include:
- Dermatopathology: They specialize in both dermatology and pathology. They examine a piece of skin or tissue (biopsy samples) with a microscope to diagnose medical conditions.
- Mohs surgery: Mohs surgeons perform a specialized procedure called Mohs surgery to treat skin cancer.
- Pediatric dermatology: Pediatric dermatologists specialize in treating skin, hair, and nail conditions in children, including infants.
When should I see a dermatologist?
Dermatologists manage thousands of conditions related to the skin, hair, and nails. You may need to see a dermatologist if you have:
- Hair loss (more than usual or normal)
- Nail conditions
- Skin rash
- Moles on the skin, typically those with irregular borders, which are changing in size and shape, or are painful and bleeding.
- Genital sores
- Signs of aging
- Sunburn or sunspots
- Skin discoloration
- Thinning eyelashes
- Excessive sweating
- Yeast infections
- Skin allergies
- Dry, itchy, or irritated skin
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