Most adults know they should see their general practitioner each year, but few know that a visit to the dermatologist should be part of their routine health and wellness visits as well.
Many people assume that because they haven’t noticed any significant problems with their skin, they don’t need to make the time to see a dermatologist. The truth is, an appointment at the dermatologist’s office can be beneficial for anyone—whether or not you currently have concerns about your skin.
What Does a Dermatologist Do?
In the most general terms, a dermatologist is in charge of caring for your skin, hair, nails, and oral cavity, by preventing or treating any conditions or diseases associated with those areas.
Some of the more common areas a dermatologist is qualified to address include:
- Skin Cancer: Dermatologists perform skin cancer screenings and will help you choose a treatment option if you’re diagnosed with skin cancer.
- Acne: Dermatologists work with individuals with acnewho haven’t had any luck with over-the-counter products, typically suggesting prescription medications to resolve acne.
- Psoriasis: Psoriasisis a specialized skin condition that dermatologists address. Even though this condition is not a risk to your health, it is bothersome, and the discomfort can prevent you from enjoying your day-to-day life.
- Eczema: For individuals dealing with eczema, an annoying skin condition known for symptoms such as itchy and flaky patches of skin, a dermatologist can provide treatment options such as prescription medication, if necessary.
- Rosacea: Rosacea may begin with a tendency to blush or flush easily. As it progresses, it can lead to bumps, known as papules and pustules, and a persistent redness that spreads over the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead.
- Scar Removal: Dermatologists address cosmetic concerns and offer treatments for scars caused by acne, stretch marks, or a previous skin condition.
- Wart Removal: Warts such as plantar (foot) warts, genital warts, and common warts, are best removed by a dermatologist who can treat the wart with the right dermatological treatment.
- Skin Care Education: A dermatologist will spend time with each patient, educating them on the best way to take care of their skin and what steps can be taken to prevent the occurrence of serious skin conditions such as skin cancer.
Some dermatologists may have the specific skills necessary to address your condition, others may refer you to another doctor if a more severe problem arises. Whether you have a condition or not, seeing a dermatologist is an important component of taking care of your whole self and should always be a part of your regular healthcare routine.
My Health Is Good; How Often Should I See My Dermatologist?
If you have no concerns about the health of your skin, hair, nails, or the oral cavity, you still need to see a dermatologist regularly as a way of maintaining your current health. Since an estimated 20 percent of all Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their life, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, healthy adults should see a dermatologist as a proactive way of monitoring for early detection of cancer or other dermatologic disorders.
We firmly believe every adult should have a full body exam a minimum of one time, each year.
If I Have Risk Factors for a Specific Condition, How Often Should I See My Dermatologist?
Once a year is the minimum when it comes to how often each individual should make an appointment with their dermatologist. At-risk adults may need to see a dermatologist more frequently.
When it comes down to it, your dermatologist is the best person to advise you on the frequency of your check-ups. Because of this, we recommend you start with an initial exam and spend time going through your personal and family history with your doctor. Be sure to mention if any of the following circumstances apply to you:
- You, or a close relative, have been diagnosed with or treated for skin cancer.
- If you have in the past, or currently, spend significant amounts of time in the sun.
- You had x-ray treatments for acne when you were younger.
- You have a mole with suspicious characteristics.
- You have a skin condition, such as acne, psoriasis, or eczema.
After you have visited with your doctor, he or she can create a personalized plan to address your concerns about your health, which may include more frequent check-ups, a referral to another doctor, or specialized treatment. It’s not uncommon for a dermatologist to advise a patient with certain risk factors to have a check-up two to three times per year.
When Should I See a Dermatologist Right Away?
In many cases, regular check-ups are enough to maintain health and treat any present skin conditions. However, in some cases you should see a dermatologist immediately to address significant health concerns.
- If you notice dark discolorations on your skin that have changed e.g., they bleed or won’t heal, it is important you see your dermatologist as soon as possible.
- If you notice a suspicious looking mole, you have an itch, rash, or chronic skin condition that isn’t healing, have an unusual nodule or bump, have a scaly or oozing lesion, or you have an infected nail; then now is the time to make an appointment.
The American Melanoma Foundation recommends that any continuous or significant change in a mole requires a visit to the dermatologist. Use the ABCDs of melanoma as a guide:
- A for Asymmetry—Is one half of the mole different than the other?
- B for Border Irregularity—Are the edges uneven, blurred, or notched?
- C for Color—Is the color uneven? Is the color black present? How about shades of tan or brown?
- D for Diameter—Is the diameter greater than 6 millimeters?
How Can I Protect the Health of My Hair, Skin, Nails, and Oral Cavity Between Visits?
Seeing a dermatologist is a wise start, but you need to follow up by vigilantly caring for you hair, skin, nails, and mouth between each visit. Careful and routine skin care is key to preventing the development of serious skin conditions, including skin cancer.
- According to the American Academy of Dermatology, exposure to UV light is the most avoidable skin cancer risk. Avoid excessive exposure to sunlight. If you will be spending time outdoors, protect your skin with clothing, shade, and a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30.
- Say “no” to tanning beds. The artificial UV radiation tanning beds emit is suspected to be linked to the development of skin cancer, specifically in women younger than 45.
- Perform a self-exam at least once a month. Self-examinations are considered to be incredibly important since skin cancer found early is consistently curable, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Regular checks help you remain familiar with your skin, which allows you to notice immediately if anything changes. When you look over your skin, keep an eye out for anything suspicious, such as a changing mole or a mole that’s strangely shaped.
Contact Your Dermatologist Immediately if you Notice Any New, Concerning Conditions on your Skin.
Your dermatologist is the best person to seek out for advice on caring for your skin, performing skin examinations, and creating check-up schedules. Because of this, we recommend you schedule an initial full-body examination with a dermatologist by giving your nearest location a call!
Make today the day you begin taking the health of your hair, skin, nails, and oral cavity more seriously.