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What is a Dermatologist?
Dermatologist at Work

A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in conditions involving the skin and nails. A dermatologist can identify and treat more than 3,000 conditions. These conditions include acne, birthmarks, cystseczema, infections from bacteria, fungi or viruses, moles, psoriasis, rashes, rosacea, scars, skin cancersspots, vitiligo, and warts, among many others.

Dermatologists have extensive training, typically involving 12 years or more to learn to diagnose and treat more than 3,000 diseases of the skin and nails, as well as cosmetic concerns. Patients see dermatologists for issues that are much more than skin deep. Problems with their skin can harm patients’ sense of self-worth, create discomfort that can make everyday activities difficult, lead to other medical conditions, and in some instances, threaten lives.

What training do Dermatologists have?

No medical professional completes more training than dermatologists when it comes to the study of the skin and nails. Before they can begin practicing, dermatologists receive more than a decade of training, including:

  • Four years of college to earn a bachelor’s degree

  • Four years of medical school to become a medical doctor

  • A year-long internship

  • Three years of residency, working alongside experienced doctors and completing 12,000 to 16,000 hours of treating patients.

What is a Board-Certified Dermatologist?

After successfully completing residency training in dermatology, a dermatologist can become board-certified, completing a challenging exam on the knowledge and skills acquired during their years of training.

Board certification from the American Board of Dermatology, the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology, or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada lets you know you are receiving care from someone who has received the most rigorous education in the field. It is important that the board certification is from one of these organizations. There are many different kinds of boards, and other certifications do not reflect the same level of training and expertise.

Why should you see a Board-Certified Dermatologist?

On any given day, a dermatologist may treat patients with melanoma (a type of skin cancer that can turn deadly), wartseczema, or another long-term disease. That same day, a dermatologist may also see a patient who has a condition caused by problems with the immune system like psoriasis, a skin reaction like allergic contact dermatitis, or a skin infection that could become very serious if left untreated.

Dermatologists also treat patients who want help with cosmetic concerns. This includes helping patients with aging skin achieve a more youthful appearance, removing unwanted fat or hair, and diminishing scars due to acne or other causes.

People entrust their cosmetic concerns to board-certified dermatologists because these doctors have advanced knowledge of cosmetic treatments. They also know the skin and the anatomy of the nerves and muscles that lie beneath the skin. This expertise helps them choose the best cosmetic approach for each patient, assists in avoiding issues with unsuitable treatments, and corrects an issue quickly if it happens.

Another benefit of seeing a board-certified dermatologist for your cosmetic concern is to make sure your concern is truly cosmetic. For example, a pimple that won’t go away could be skin cancer. Dermatologists can spot problems like this, which you may not know you have.

Is skin disease serious?

Many skin diseases involve serious health risks. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. At least one in five Americans will develop it at some point in their lives. Early detection by having regularly scheduled skin exams is key. Even if a skin disorder is not life-threatening, it may develop into a more serious condition, reduce a person’s quality of life causing loss of sleep, poor self-image, serious depression, and lost productivity.

Dermatologists understand the interaction between the skin and the rest of the body. What seems like a simple rash might be a sign of an underlying disease. For example, an itchy rash could be hives, scabies, psoriasis, or a skin reaction called contact dermatitis. Each of these diseases requires different treatment.

Dermatologists also know what other medical conditions to look for when a patient has a skin condition like psoriasis, eczema, or rosacea. For example, people living with psoriasis have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol, and diabetes. Making healthy choices now may help prevent these related issues from developing.

Who should see a Dermatologist?

Dermatologists treat patients of all ages, from newborns to people who are more than 100 years old. Anyone who has concerns about a condition involving the skin, or nails, or has a family history of skin disease, should see a board-certified dermatologist since they have many years of advanced training in properly identifying and treating conditions that affect the hair, skin, and nails. Getting an accurate diagnosis from a trained professional is key to appropriate treatment. 

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