When You Need to See a Skin, Hair and Nail Specialist
Blemishes and wrinkles are very common skin problems. But, there are thousands of conditions that can affect the skin. Some cause mild symptoms. Others can be serious and interfere with everyday life. Redness, itching, pain, rashes and pus are all signs you need to see a dermatologist. This doctor specializes in treating skin, hair and nails. Some treatments improve the look of your skin. Regular checkups for skin cancer can save your life. These 10 conditions merit a visit to the dermatologist.
Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States. It causes various blemishes on the face. They include whiteheads, blackheads, pimples and deep cysts. These often form because oil glands in the skin produce too much of a substance called sebum. It clogs pores. Bacteria can also be the cause. Acne is common among teenagers, but you can get it at any age. Blemishes usually appear on the face, neck, back, chest and shoulders. Acne isn’t life threatening, but it can be upsetting. Without proper treatment, it can also leave permanent scars. Treatment can include over-the-counter or prescription creams and gels, oral medication, chemical peels, and laser therapy.
Eczema is an umbrella term for several chronic skin conditions that cause inflammation (swelling) of the skin. It can be very uncomfortable and emotionally distressing. It often causes red, swollen, dry and itchy skin. The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis. This usually affects babies and children. Kids may develop a rash on their cheeks and other parts of their body. The rash can leak fluid. Children may have trouble sleeping because of itchiness. Dermatologists can diagnose eczema with certain tests and a skin exam. Over-the-counter and prescription creams and other medicines can ease the condition. Proper skin care is important, too.
Psoriasis stems from a problem with the immune system. This causes skin cells to form too quickly. They then pile up on the surface of the skin. These patches are called plaques. They can be thick and red and have silvery scales. They can be itchy or painful. They usually appear on the elbows, knees, legs, face and scalp. Sometimes they’re on the bottom of the feet. They can show up on the fingernails, genitals or inside the mouth, but this is less common. Dermatologists can diagnose psoriasis by looking at a skin sample under a microscope. Psoriasis is a chronic condition. Creams can help soothe the skin and help it heal. Treatment also may include oral medication to suppress the overactive immune system.
Signs of Aging
Skin changes with age. You may notice wrinkles, dryness or discolorations often called age spots. The sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays and smoking can speed up and worsen these signs of aging. Wearing sunscreen can help prevent more sun damage. Not smoking and eating a healthy diet can also protect skin. But, if you’re unhappy with your appearance, you may want to see a dermatologist. There are many treatments to help smooth wrinkles and tighten the skin. A dermatologist can also help improve the skin’s texture and color. Treatments to help give the skin a more youthful look include chemical peels, laser therapy, Botox injections, and wrinkle fillers.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. It’s also the easiest cancer to cure if diagnosed early. However, the most dangerous type of skin cancer is melanoma. It can be deadly. Several warning signs should prompt a dermatologist visit. They include skin growths that change in size, shape, color, thickness or texture. A key warning sign of melanoma is an irregular growth that’s wider than a pencil eraser. Have a dermatologist check spots on your skin that continuously scab, crust, itch, hurt or bleed. Routine checkups are also important. A dermatologist should examine your skin at least once a year for signs of skin cancer.
You spot a mole that is changing shape or size.
Whether your mole has been there since birth or it just appeared, it is important to get a skin exam each year. It’s especially important if you’ve noticed that your moles have changed in size, shape or color. Also, if they are itchy, bleeding, painful, scabbing or have turned into non-healing sores, it’s extremely important to see the dermatologist. Skin cancer can develop in people of any skin color. So, even if you don’t have fair skin, you should still go see a dermatologist.
You have a pimple that you need to get rid of fast. Not only are these painful, but they also seem to pop up at the worst time. Often, this type of acne is caused by hormonal fluctuations, stress or bacteria that’s hard to control. A simple visit to your dermatologist will help reduce the pain and inflammation. It will also speed up the healing process.
You’re losing more hair than usual or notice a bald spot.
While it’s natural to lose a few hairs here and there—in fact, the average person loses anywhere from 50 to 100 hairs a day—a growing bald spot, widening part, or significant shedding could be signs of something more serious. Hair loss is most often hereditary, but may also be the result of a diet lacking essential vitamins, nutrients, minerals or protein—or the result of changes in weight or crash dieting. “When it’s the result of poor diet, it’s usually temporary, but it may take time for hair to return to its natural thickness.”
In addition, hair loss can be common after giving birth, when women may experience significant changes in hair volume. A surge of estrogen during pregnancy causes hair to become fuller and lusher, but after birth, estrogen levels begin to regulate and hair tends to fall out as it resumes its normal cycle. To assess what’s going on, your dermatologist will likely ask you a series of questions and, once the cause is pinpointed, he or she will discuss your various treatment options, including topical and oral medications. A hair pull test—as unappealing as it sounds—may be necessary to determine the amount of hair shed and what stage of hair growth the hairs are shedding in.
When your nail separates from the nail bed, it could be due to skin disease, an infection or a recent injury. Your doctor can help determine which of these is causing your nail issues in order to recommend the best treatment option. Thickening nails, on the other hand, might be caused by nail psoriasis, which can be treated with topical or oral prescription medications.
Normal: Occasional brittle feeling
Not Normal: Nail lifts off the nail bed or nail becomes thickened
Often, we can attribute eyelash thinning to bad beauty habits—like sleeping in your eye makeup or being too aggressive with the eye makeup remover. Other times, the cause might be more serious—like a bacterial infection, hormonal imbalances or an autoimmune disorder. If you can’t put the blame on your beauty routine, it’s probably time to see a dermatologist.
Normal: Gradual thinning of lashes with age
Not Normal: Loss or thinning of lashes due to metabolic imbalances or from chemical/heat damage
Warts are benign growths caused by an infection of the top layer of skin. Because they are caused by infection, a wart can be contagious to others. Although they are usually harmless, you may want to see a dermatologist for treatment or removal—especially if a wart hurts or you have many of them.
Normal: Normal skin
Not Normal: Single or groups of bumps on the skin that can be contagious to others and should get treated