The skin is the body’s largest organ, and it is essential to protecting our interior organs, muscles, nerves and blood vessels. The skin is constantly exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, bacteria and more. Normal wear and tear, damage, diseases and other disorders can all affect the skin. When significant problems arise with the skin, it may be time to consult a dermatologist.
Dermatology is a medical specialty which focuses on conditions and disorders that affect the skin, nails and hair. A dermatologist is a medical expert who may study, research, diagnose, or treat these areas. People also visit dermatologists for cosmetic reasons. Cosmetic dermatology is a specialized branch which aims to improve the skin’s appearance.
There are several specializations which a dermatologist can study and practice, such as:
- Pediatric dermatology: Dermatologists who focus on skin conditions in children
- Cosmetic dermatology: Specialists whose goal is to improve the appearance of the skin
- Dermatopathology: A specialist who diagnoses skin conditions by examining samples under a microscope
- Procedural dermatology: Another term for a dermatologist who specializes in dermatologic surgery
Common reasons to visit a dermatologist include:
- Chronic inflammation
- Skin diseases
- Skin cancer
- Ageing (wrinkles and lines)
- Hair loss reversal
- Scar reduction
Types of Dermatology Treatments
There are many treatment options for skin conditions, and every individual’s treatment differs depending on the nature of the condition. You may be prescribed one or a combination of the following treatment types:
- Medication (oral or topical)
- Chemical peels
- Laser surgery
- Skin grafts
Common Dermatology Terms
The field of dermatology contains many medical terms which may not be widely known, but are important to understand if you’re considering visiting a dermatologist. Find definitions to the most common dermatology terms below.
- Epidermis: The outermost layer of skin which is made of cells that can be replaced quickly.
- Dermis: The tissue directly under the epidermis that contains blood vessels, nerve endings, hair follicles, and other tissue structures.
- Subcutaneous tissue: The deepest layer of skin that is responsible for regulating body temperature.
- Lesion: An area of skin that is damaged or has an abnormal appearance.
- Rash: Similar to a lesion, except that there are multiple occurrences in a localized area. Rashes can occur on the body in several places at once.
- Dermatosis: Another term for skin disease.
Dermatology and Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, but it is also among the easiest types to cure if treated promptly. Skin cancer occurs when abnormal skin cells grow at an uncontrolled rate. Damage to DNA in skin cells, often caused by UV rays from the sun or tanning beds, can trigger mutations which cause the cells to grow and form tumors.
Dermatologists identify, diagnose, and treat skin cancers using one of six main types of treatments below. The type or types used depends on the cancer that is present, as well as the extent of the spreading.
Skin cancer treatments:
- Biologic therapy
- Photodynamic therapy
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
There are six types of skin cancer: actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinoma, dysplastic nevi, melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma. The two most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Mohs micrographic surgery is one of the most effective treatment options for these two types of skin cancer.
Mohs Micrographic Surgery
Mohs micrographic surgery is a type of cancer treatment which is especially effective against basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. During surgery, the tumor is removed layer by layer and examined for cancerous cells. Surgeons continue to remove layers and inspect for cancerous cells until the tumor is gone. Mohs micrographic surgery is very effective because it preserves as much of the healthy tissue as possible while removing the cancerous cells.
Caring For Your Skin
Just like your main organs, the skin can develop a wide array of health issues. Caring for your skin regularly can minimize your risk factors and help keep your skin happy and healthy.
Skin care tips:
- Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or above
- Wear hats and loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts and pants if you will be outdoors for a long period of time
- Avoid overexposure to the sun during the hottest part of the day (10am – 2pm)
- Avoid tanning beds
It only takes one sunburn to increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Seek professional help if you notice anything unusual with your skin, hair or nails.