What is Dermatology?

Dermatology is an area of medicine that is often forgotten as unlike a GP, who can see you about anything, if you don’t need to see a dermatologist you won’t use them.

Dermatology is an area of medicine that deals with the skin, whether it is a condition, a disease or just something that is uncommon, dermatology looks into all areas of skin and skin diseases investigating both the medical and surgical treatments. Secondly dermatology deals with hair, sweat glands, and other parts of the body.

An individual who works in dermatology is called a Dermatologist. The job of a dermatologist involves them taking care of diseases, as well as cosmetic problems to do with the skin, scalp, hair, and nails. In order to become a dermatologist you must undertake a medical degree and then complete four years of training. The training is split into several steps, which involve: a medical or surgical intern year followed by up to three years in a dermatology residence.

Dermatologists can deal with all manner of skin complaints and conditions from the aging process to rare forms of skin cancer. There are many conditions however, that it is unnecessary to see a dermatologist about as a GP can diagnose them just as easily these common conditions include: blackheads, cold sores, carbuncles, eczema, acne, and moles. A dermatologist is called to see a patient when the GP cannot diagnose what the symptoms might be. If someone is sent to a dermatologist, then depending on their symptoms, they will be taken through a variety of tests to see where their issue lies. There a many treatments that a patient could undergo in order to find a cause and treatment for their problem; these treatments could be topical, systematic or laser therapy.

Topical treatment is usually used to help against eczema and rosacea. This kind of treatment is often referred to as ‘topical steroids’ or ‘steroid cream’. Topical medication contains corticosteroids, which are synthetic versions of hormones. They are called topical, as they are applied directly to the skin.

Systemic treatment is followed up after topical treatment. If conditions have not responded to a topical treatment then a systematic treatment is used. Rather than applying the treatment directly to the skin a systematic treatment is taken in tablet form or as an injection. This type of treatment needs to be monitored often due to the high risk of side effects. There is a chance that symptoms may reappear once the treatment is stopped or completed. The three types of systemic treatment include: Cyclosporine, Retinoids, and Methotrexate.

Laser therapy can also be used to treat skin conditions and may be used for several reasons. The main reasons for its use are to help reduce the signs of ageing and to help fight off warts. Laser therapy involves a beam of light aimed at the skin which helps fight off the infection, leaving little or no scarring.

Article was written by Sally Borne, an expert Dermatologist in London.

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