When to See a Dermatologist: By Deborah Atkin, MD


Most people know they should consult with a dermatologist when they notice a suspicious lump or spot on their skin – for example, a firm red lump, a new growth, or a mole that is asymmetrical or has uneven borders. However, the field of dermatology is not strictly for identifying and treating skin cancer. Every dermatologist is a Medical Doctor who has extensive training in the diagnoses and treatment of skin conditions. Often times, people may have irritating or debilitating skin conditions that can be mitigated through dermatological procedures. Here are a few common conditions that can often be treated by a board-certified dermatologist:

•Acne. While especially common in teenagers, acne is often found in adults as well. Today, treatment for acne includes topical creams, oral medications and procedures such as a microdermabrasion, injections, light chemical peels and even surgery. Combination laser procedures can treat active acne and scarring at the same time, with no down time. New vitamin supplements, high in Vitamin A, can also be very effective for acne.

•Eczema. This common skin condition is characterized by dry, red, extremely itchy patches on the skin. It can be treated with over-the-counter lotions, cold compresses, corticosteroids (in creams, lotions and oral medicines), antihistamines, phototherapy, tar treatment and, in rare instances, a medication that modifies immune response. Moisturization to repair the cracked skin barrier is essential to treat and prevent further eczema. In severe cases, prescription barrier creams may be necessary.

•Sun Damage. Too much sun exposure is responsible for most of the skin damage typically associated with aging. Dermatologists treat sun damage with a wide range of products and advanced techniques, including injections, chemical peels, dermabrasion and microdermabrasion, intense pulsed light therapy, laser skin resurfacing and topical creams. Appropriate treatment plans are developed based on an individual’s age, health, medical history, degree of skin damage, tolerance for procedures and personal preferences. Photodynamic therapy can effectively treat pre-skin cancers, or actinic keratoses, before they progress to the skin cancer stage.

•Rosacea. This chronic disorder is characterized by flare-ups and remissions of redness and bumpiness, typically on the face. Symptoms include facial redness, small visible blood vessels on the face, bumps or pimples on the face and watery or irritated eyes. Although rosacea cannot be cured, there are a number of treatment options available, including laser treatment and topical medications. Rosacea may, at times, lead to dry and irritated eyes. Very low dose oral antibiotics can be extremely beneficial.

If you’ve been dealing with an irritating, unsightly or painful skin condition, you should be aware that there are resources available to you. If you don’t have an established relationship with a dermatologist you trust, ask your family physician who they would recommend.

Article by
Del Mar Dermatologic Surgeon