As a dermatologist, I get a lot of first-timers. Inevitably, I meet people who are unsure if they're even seeing the right person for their skin problems. Occasionally, someone will come in for a visit and say something like, "I don't know if a dermatologist takes
care of this, but..." or "I'm not sure if this is in your area, but..."
You have a mole or sun spots.
Whether it's a mole you've had since birth or
a new spot that just appeared, it's important to get a full skin exam at least once a year. It is especially important to have the
moles or spots evaluated if you have noticed any changes in size, shape, or
color; or have symptoms, such as itching, bleeding,
pain, scabbing, or non-healing sores. If you have family members with abnormal moles or
skin cancer, or if you have a history of sunburns, you should definitely see a derm.
Skin cancer can develop in people of any skin color, so
if you think that just because you don't have fair skin, you can skip the doctor, you're wrong. Early skin-cancer
detection is important — and potentially life-saving.
You have persistent acne that isn't going away.
Acne is the most commonly diagnosed skin condition in the United States. Although many people use over-the-counter
treatments and home remedies for it, there are times when it is
necessary to see a dermatologist and get a more tailored — and often more
effective — treatment regimen.
Moreover, there are certain skin conditions that can
resemble acne but aren't actually acne, which means you could be treating the skin issue incorrectly. If your acne isn't responding to what you are using at home, or if it is causing scarring and/or feelings of embarrassment, it's time to see a
You have an itch that you just can't
If something on your skin is itchy for more
than a week, then it's time to see a dermatologist. There are several skin conditions that cause this persistent itching that are not dangerous, and these are easily treatable. However, skin cancer can also sometimes be itchy, so it's important to get it checked out. It may be an indication of something serious happening internally.
Often, skin spots are merely cosmetic concerns (post-inflammatory skin-color changes or melasma, for example). But, there are, in fact, more serious conditions that can result in dark and light spots on the skin, such as lymphoma (a type of cancer) or a connective tissue disease. The sometimes serious nature of the spots means that a dermatologist should assess them to determine if there's cause for concern.
A number of skin conditions can appear as red patches. Most of these conditions only affect the skin, such as eczema or seborrheic dermatitis, but some, like lupus and psoriasis, can be associated with internal symptoms, which is why a dermatologist needs to examine any red patches.
Set aside self-diagnosing and see a
dermatologist to address any issues you are having with your skin, hair, or
nails. Besides treating medical skin
conditions, many dermatologists are knowledgeable about cosmetic procedures and
can advise you on the most appropriate procedures for your concerns.
Dermatologists can also educate you about protecting your skin, help you
understand it, and recommend the best products for you.