Introduction to Dermatology

036 Cross section of skinOur skin protects us from injuries and infections, and shields us from light and heat. It helps regulate our temperatures, relays information about our environments to the brain, and stores water, fat and vitamin D. Consisting of two main layers – The Epidermis and the Dermis – The skin is the body’s largest organ, weighing about 6 pounds. As our most visible organ, it plays an important part in our appearances.

Dermatology is a medical specialty concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and tumors of the skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes. The dermatologist is a physician specially trained to diagnose and treat, medically or surgically, rashes, tumors, growths, and cancers that may affect the skin, hair, and nails. The range of disorders treated spans the human life cycle from infant diaper rashes to skin cancer in the elderly.

It is important to be able to take a history from the patient as the the first step in formulating a treatment plan and to enable the identification of obvious causes. Most questions should be of the open–ended variety ( those beginning with who, what, where when, how or why) so that the maximum amount of information can be elicited from the patient and so that the patient is not lead or forced into an answer.

The following questions are helpful to decide whether you need a dermatologist:

  • What is the nature of the rash? (scaly? itchy? vesicles?)
  • Where is the rash?
  • How long has it been present?
  • Is it getting better or worse?
  • Does anything aggravate it?
  • What work do you do?
  • Is there any history of hay fever or asthma?
  • Has anything been tried?
  • What other medication do you take?
  • Do you have any other medical conditions?
Infections and infestations that come under the scope of a dermatologist can be divided up as follows: Bacterial
  • Impetigo.
  • Boils.
  • Cellulitis.
  • Herpes simplex.
  • Warts.
  • Scabies.
  • Pediculosis capitis.
  • Candida and Tinea of the nails.
  • Candidiasis (thrush) of the mouth, vagina.