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Dermatologists Treat Diseases of the Skin, Hair, and Nails

Dermatologists treat diseases of the skin, hair, and nails. They also recognize symptoms that may indicate problems inside the body, like liver disease.


Acne can be a massive problem for many people. When over-the-counter treatments don’t work, a dermatologist can provide more targeted and effective treatment options. They can also help with scarring caused by acne. Visit https://www.montgomerydermatologists.com/ to learn more.

Acne is a skin condition that affects the hair follicles and oil glands (sebaceous glands). It can lead to pimples, blackheads, whiteheads and cysts. It may occur on the face, chest, back or shoulders. It can be mild, moderate or severe. It can be a problem for people of any age but it most often begins in puberty as male sex hormones increase in boys and girls, causing the sebaceous glands to make more oil. This clogs the pores and causes acne to appear.

A dermatologist can prescribe treatment for acne and other skin conditions such as rosacea. A prescription-strength cleanser, a topical antibiotic or oral medication are common treatments. Dermatologists also can advise on makeup and skin care products that are less likely to clog the pores. They can suggest that a person wash their skin no more than twice a day with a gentle soap or cleanser made specifically for acne-prone skin. They can also advise that a person should not pick or squeeze at a pimple, as this can cause permanent scarring.

A person can prevent acne by using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and avoiding sun exposure. It is also a good idea to avoid hot showers or baths as they can irritate the skin. A person can also use make-up and skin care products that are non-comedogenic, which means they are not likely to clog the pores. It is not clear what causes some people to develop acne, but it is possible that diet and certain foods play a role. A nutritionist can help a person understand how diet may affect their acne. Research shows that some foods may help to reduce the appearance of acne.

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is a common but treatable disease. It occurs when cells in the skin develop mutations that grow out of control. It can affect people of all ages and skin tones, although it is most often caused by UV sunlight. It is important to see a dermatologist if you notice any new growths, changes in existing spots or growths, or a sore that won’t heal.

Nonmelanoma skin cancers develop from cells that lie just below the skin’s surface, called basal cells. They are most common on areas of the body that get a lot of sun, like the head, face and neck. Some examples of nonmelanoma skin cancers are actinic keratoses, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.

Melanoma skin cancer develops in the cells that give skin its color, called melanocytes. While most moles are not cancerous, a small percentage may become malignant and spread quickly. It is more common in darker-skinned individuals but can occur in any skin tone. It is also more likely to appear in moles that have changed shape or color, and it tends to spread faster in people with a family history of melanoma or other forms of skin cancer.

If you have a concerning lesion that cannot be diagnosed on physical examination, your dermatologist will do a skin biopsy. This is done in the office and involves scraping off a small piece of the tumor, then sending it to a lab for special testing. Treatment options for melanoma and other types of skin cancer include surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy (drugs to kill the cancer cells). In some cases, you will need immunotherapy, which uses medication to train your immune system to destroy the cancer cells.

Skin Bleeding

Bleeding into the skin, or bruising, happens when blood vessels break and leak blood under the skin’s surface. It usually results in a patch of red, purple or blue discoloration that will heal over time. If a person experiences a lot of bleeding into the skin, or if the bruising doesn’t heal after an injury, it is important to get medical attention in order to prevent serious complications.

Bruising and bleeding under the skin can be caused by minor injuries, certain medications, or chronic health conditions. Symptoms can range from a single bruise or a cluster of spots that appear on the arms, legs or face to large pools of clotted blood (hematoma). The doctor will ask a patient questions about any recent injuries and about their family history with bleeds and clotting disorders. The doctor may also perform a blood and urine test, an imaging scan or a bone marrow biopsy to determine the cause of the bleeding under the skin.

Blood spots under the skin are called petechiae or purpura. They look like bruises but aren’t caused by an injury, as most regular bruising is. They occur when small blood vessels break under the skin’s surface and leak their contents into nearby tissue. Some people are more likely to develop blood spots than others, including those with a family history of bleeds or a bleeding disorder, liver disease, certain medicines or a condition known as thrombocytopenia that affects the number of platelets in the body. A person with a blood spot that doesn’t go away after a few weeks should see a dermatologist for evaluation. It’s also important for anyone who has frequent bruising to see a dermatologist to determine the cause.

Skin Infections

The skin is the body’s first line of defense against the environment. If a person’s normal skin barrier becomes compromised — for example, because of a cut or surgery, or an underlying condition such as atopic dermatitis or psoriasis — microorganisms can enter the skin and cause infections. These organisms may be bacteria, fungi or viruses.

A bacterial infection may be caused by a pathogen that invading the normal skin or by bacteria that are already present due to an underlying disease (such as staph or strep infections). The symptoms of these infections vary depending on the type of infection. Some of the more common ones include boils, impetigo and cellulitis.

Fungal infections often occur on the nails or hair. They can be very difficult to treat because fungi have an affinity for the keratin of these structures. Symptoms of these infections can range from mild to severe and include itching, redness, pain and discharge.

The diagnosis of a skin infection is based on the history and physical exam, as well as lab tests such as a culture of the involved skin. The culture is usually done by taking a sample with a sterile blade or by swabbing the lesion and spreading it on a slide for microscopic examination. A Gram stain is done to determine if the bacteria are aerobic or anaerobic and to identify any other organisms that may be present in the lesion. In addition, ultraviolet light (Wood’s lamp) may be used to assist in diagnosing erythrasma and some toe web and nail infections. Finally, a KOH preparation of skin scales, nail scrapings or loose hair is helpful for diagnosing scabies and some pediculosis (louse or lice infestations). This test can also help differentiate viral from bacterial infections.

Preventive Care

Taking a proactive approach to health care is more cost-effective than reacting to illnesses and diseases after they occur. Preventive care includes services like examinations, vaccines, and screenings that can identify potential health issues before they become serious. It can also help you prevent certain diseases by catching them in the early stages, when they’re easier to treat.

Depending on your insurance coverage, many of these services are covered at no cost to you. To find out what types of preventive care your insurance company covers, check with them or contact your doctor’s office. Your online account through your insurer should also offer information and reminders for preventive appointments.

Some preventive services may be changed to diagnostic ones if your doctor needs to perform additional tests, schedule follow-up visits, or talk with you about results. If your provider changes a preventive service to a diagnostic one, you will be charged for the office visit and any copay or deductible that applies to your plan.

A key feature of preventive care is the focus on risk factors, which can include a person’s age, sex, genetics, and lifestyle. By understanding their risk factors, patients can make healthier choices about diet, exercise, and other behaviors to avoid disease. Preventive care helps protect the health and well-being of individuals, communities, and the country as a whole. By preventing disease and disability, preventive healthcare saves lives and reduces costs.