What Does a Dermatologist Do?

Dermatology is a medical specialism that focuses on skin, hair, and nails. The skin is the body’s largest organ, shaping not only one’s appearance but also overall health and well-being. Dermatologists are medical professionals who specialise in treating conditions affecting skin, hair, and nails. Discover more as Bloom explores the world of dermatology. From routine skin care to managing complex conditions, find out what it means to consult a dermatologist and when you need to do so. 

What is a dermatologist?

A dermatologist is a specialist in dermatology who focuses on diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases related to the skin, hair, and nails. The goal of a dermatologist is to promote skin health and appearance. Their role extends beyond medical treatment to encompass preventive care and patient education, ensuring overall health and well-being. They are experts in identifying and managing a wide range of dermatological issues, including diseases infections, allergies, and even cosmetic concerns. A dermatologist will use various diagnostic techniques to provide accurate diagnoses before prescribing a treatment plan. These plans are usually quite personalised and can include medication, medical procedures or lifestyle recommendations. 

Common types of skin diseases and conditions

The skin is the body’s largest organ. It consists of three primary layers: the epidermis, the outermost layer providing waterproof protection; the dermis, containing connective tissue, hair follicles, and sweat glands; and the subcutaneous tissue, composed of fat and connective tissue. These layers contain cells, proteins (like collagen and elastin), blood vessels, nerves, and glands, which collectively contribute to the skin’s structure and function. 

Overall, the skin is a multifaceted organ that is crucial for maintaining homeostasis, sensory perception, and immune defence in the body. It serves as the body’s primary barrier, shielding it against external threats like pathogens, UV radiation, and environmental toxins. It also acts to regulate body temperature through sweat production and insulation. The skin allows one to interact with the environment as sensory receptors in the skin enable the perception of touch, pain, temperature, and pressure. Additionally, the skin plays a crucial role in vitamin D synthesis, which is essential for bone health. Through its layers, the skin aids in waste removal via sweating. There are a number of skin conditions that a dermatologist might treat. Some of these dermatology concerns include: 

  1. Acne: This is caused when hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. Bacteria can increase inflammation, leading to various lesions, including pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and in severe cases, cysts. Hormonal changes and lifestyle factors can influence the development and severity of acne. Treatment typically involves topical or oral medications targeting inflammation, bacteria, and excess oil production, along with lifestyle modifications and good skincare practices.
  1. Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis): This is chronic inflammation that causes dry, itchy, and inflamed skin patches. It’s often linked to allergies and immune system dysfunction. Dermatology treatment includes using moisturisers and topical medical creams. It’s also advisable to identify triggers so that it’s easier to manage symptoms and prevent flare-ups.
  1. Psoriasis: This is an autoimmune disorder, that accelerates skin cell growth that causes raised, red patches covered with silver scales. It commonly affects elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back. Treatments range from the application of topical creams to systemic medications to reduce inflammation and slow down cell growth.
  1. Dermatitis: This consists of a spectrum of skin inflammations triggered by allergens, irritants, or even genetic factors. Common types include contact dermatitis from irritants or allergens, atopic dermatitis (eczema), and seborrheic dermatitis. Treatment involves identifying and avoiding triggers, along with using topical or systemic therapies to manage symptoms and inflammation.
  1. Rosacea: A chronic skin disorder that presents as persistent facial redness and visible blood vessels. It may also involve papules or pustules resembling acne. Triggers include sunlight, stress, and certain types of foods. Dermatology treatment options include topical medications, oral antibiotics, laser therapy, and lifestyle modifications to manage symptoms and flare-ups.
  1. Skin Cancer: There are various types of skin cancer, notably melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Early detection is critical for successful treatment. Regular skin examinations, self-checks, and sun protection measures are vital. Treatments for skin cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy tailored to each patient’s needs.
  1. Fungal Infections: This includes conditions, like athlete’s foot, ringworm, and yeast infections. Athlete’s foot thrives in warm, moist environments, causing itching and peeling between toes. Ringworm is a fungal skin infection that forms circular, red patches and yeast infections result in itching and discharge. The treatment involves antifungal medications.
  1. Warts: These are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV): Warts present as small, rough growths on the skin. Common types include common warts, plantar warts (on feet), and genital warts. Dermatology treatment options vary from topical medications and cryotherapy to surgical removal. Solutions will depend on the wart type and its location.
  1. Androgenetic Alopecia: This is the most common type of hair loss, which is characterised by progressive thinning of the hair follicles, which leads to patterned baldness. It’s typically treated with medication, like minoxidil, which slows down hair loss and promotes hair regrowth. 
  1. Alopecia Areata: An autoimmune disorder causing sudden, patchy hair loss on the scalp or body due to the immune system attacking hair follicles. This condition is treated with corticosteroid injections, topical immunotherapy or medications that suppress the immune response and stimulate hair regrowth.

Roles and responsibilities of a dermatologist

Dermatologists play a vital role in promoting skin health, diagnosing and treating skin diseases, and addressing medical and cosmetic concerns. Some of the roles and duties that are undertaken by a dermatologist include: 

  • Diagnosis and treatment. Dermatologists diagnose and treat a wide range of skin, hair, and nail conditions, including acne, eczema, psoriasis, skin cancer and fungal infections. Once they have diagnosed a condition, they can develop a customised treatment plan that is tailored to each patient’s unique medical needs.
  • Medical procedures. Dermatologists perform medical procedures to address dermatological issues. This includes biopsies to diagnose skin cancer, surgical excisions of skin lesions, cryotherapy to remove warts or precancerous lesions and injections for conditions like keloids or alopecia areata.
  • Cosmetic procedures. Many dermatologists offer cosmetic procedures to enhance the appearance of the skin, including injectables like Botox and dermal fillers, laser treatments for hair removal, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion.
  • Skin cancer screening and prevention. Dermatologists conduct thorough skin examinations to detect early signs of skin cancer. It’s advisable to have regular skin cancer screenings if you are at risk due to genetic factors or a family history. 
  • Education. Dermatologists educate audiences about proper skincare practices, sun protection, and the importance of early detection of skin cancer. This encourages people to make healthy lifestyle modifications, like using UV sun protection and eating a balanced diet. 
  • Collaboration. Dermatologists will often collaborate with other healthcare professionals, including oncologists, rheumatologists, and plastic surgeons, to provide comprehensive care for patients with complex medical needs.

Get healthcare cover with specialist benefits

At Bloom, we encourage our members to lead and live a healthy lifestyle, so take care of your skin and be aware of any changes that could pose a serious health risk. If you do need to visit a medical specialist, like a dermatologist, there are health insurance plans that cover this type of consultation. Bloom offers flexible and affordable health insurance, medical aid and gap cover that suits your individual needs and budget.

Contact our offices and speak with one of our trained consultants to discuss which healthcare plan would suit you. 

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