What is a Dermatologist?
A dermatologist is a medical doctor (M.D. or D.O.) who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions that affect the skin, hair, and nails.
A dermatologist completes at least three years of specialized dermatology training after graduating from medical school and completing a medical internship. This focused study, research, and training makes a dermatologist the most qualified medical professional for treating and managing skin conditions.
Conditions Treated by Dermatologists
Skin conditions commonly treated by dermatologists include:
- Acne that affects both teenagers and adults
- Atopic dermatitis (eczema) that leads to dry, itching, and inflamed skin.
- Psoriasis and its various manifesations including plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
- Rosacea, a common skin condition that can lead to redness and swelling.
- Skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma, and precancerous lesions, such as actinic keratoses (AKs)
Dermatologists also treat skin conditions arising from systemic and infectious diseases, as well as cosmetic issues that affect a person's appearance. These commonly include the following:
- Hair loss
- Wounds and scars, including acne scars.
- Aging skin and other natural changes, ncluding fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.
Procedures Offered by Dermatologists
Dermatologists commonly perform skin biopsies to help diagnose the cause of a skin condition. This requires the removal of a small section of skin for examination under a microscope.
Other procedures may be performed to treat skin conditions, including:
- Cryotherapy involves freezing a skin lesion, such as actinic keratoses, with liquid nitrogen
- Curettage and cautery
- Laser treatments
- Phototherapy, including PUVA and UVB.
Many dermatologists offer cosmetic procedures that can help to maintain a youthful appearance. These include:
- Botulinum toxin (Botox)
- Dermal fillers (Juvederm, Restylane)
- Laser resurfacing
Many dermatologists complete additional training in dermatology subspecialties.
Cosmetic dermatology is a subspecialty of dermatology. Many dermatologists are trained during their residency on the use of Botox, dermal fillers, and laser surgery. Others obtain additional training by completing a fellowship in surgical dermatology. Most dermatologists limit their cosmetic practice to minimally invasive procedures, but others may perform minor cosmetic procedures, such as liposuction, blepharoplasty, and face lifts.
A dermatopathologist is a pathologist who specializes in the pathology of skin. Skin biopsies are sent to a dermatopathologist for microscopic examination and other tests. The findings of a dermatopathologist can help to determine the cause of a particular skin lesion.
Mohs Surgeons are dermatologists who have gained additional training in Mohs Surgery. Mohs Surgery focuses on the excision of skin cancers using a tissue-sparing technique that allows assessment of the tumor and its removal during the procedure.
Pediatric Dermatologists are dermatologists who have completed training in pediatrics and dermatology. Pediatric dermatologists focus on the complex skin diseases of newborns, hereditary skin diseases, and common pediatric skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis and hemangiomas.
Professional Dermatology Organizations
The American Academy of Dermatology is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of over 16,000, it represents virtually all practicing dermatologists in the United States. The Academy is committed to excellence in patient care, medical and public education, research, professionalism, and member service and support.
The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery represents 4,700 dermatologists that are trained to treat skin and soft tissue with both medically necessary and cosmetic surgical and non-surgical methods.
Patient Advocacy & Research Organizations
The National Eczema Association improves the health and quality of life for individuals with eczema through research, support, and education.
The National Psoriasis Foundation is the voice for the millions of Americans affected by psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
The National Rosacea Society (NRS) is the world's largest organization dedicated to improving the lives of the estimated 14 million Americans who suffer from this widespread but poorly understood disorder.
The Skin Cancer Foundation has set the standard for educating the public and the medical profession about skin cancer, its prevention by means of sun protection, and the need for early detection and prompt, effective treatment. It is the only international organization devoted solely to combating the world's most common cancer, now occurring at epidemic levels. More than a million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year. The Foundation's mission is to decrease the incidence of the disease by means of public and professional education, medical training, and research.