As the body’s largest organ, the skin is the body’s first line of defense against outside invaders. It not only protects the body from germs, but it also repels water and covers blood vessels, nerves, and organs. A dermatologist, whose job is to identify and treat more than 3,000 skin conditions, can help patients ensure that their skin, hair, and nails are healthy and functioning properly—and to provide treatment if they’re not.
If you’re considering making an appointment with a dermatologist to discuss the health of your skin, familiarize yourself with the most common skin conditions and the corresponding treatments that may be available to you based on your needs.
Acne is a temporary skin condition that occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oil or dead skin cells. The severity of acne symptoms will depend on your condition, but those with acne frequently present with whiteheads (closed clogged pores), blackheads (open clogged pores), and pimples, which are small, red, and tender bumps with pus at the tips. While acne is most common among teenagers, it can affect people of all ages.
If your acne persists after you’ve tried to treat it with over-the-counter (nonprescription) products, you may consider seeing a dermatologist or asking your provider about prescription medications. There are a number of effective acne treatments that can help control your acne and make scars less noticeable. Common therapies include topical medications like aczone, epiduo, forte, fabior, tretinoin and oral medications, including antibiotics like doxycycline, minocycline, and clindamycin.
Dermatitis is an umbrella term that describes skin irritation—eczema, for example, is a kind of dermatitis. These skin conditions are rather common, have a wide range of causes and can occur in many forms. Typical symptoms of dermatitis include itchy, dry skin or a rash on swollen, reddened skin. Severe forms of dermatitis can even cause the skin to blister, crust, or flake off.
Treatment for dermatitis depends upon what’s causing the condition and your specific symptoms. In addition to a number of lifestyle and home remedies, such as moisturizing regularly, there are a number of medication treatments for dermatitis. Your provider may advise you to apply topical steroids such as Bryhali, Impoyz or Ultravate in the form of creams, gels or ointments to the affected skin.
Alternatively, you may try applying certain creams or ointments that affect your immune system or exposing the affected area to controlled amounts of natural or artificial light, commonly referred to as phototherapy. Another common treatment includes using oral corticosteroids, or injectable biologics such as Dupixent (dupilumab), for severe cases. Treatment may also include medicated ointments, creams and shampoos.
Psoriasis is a common, long-term skin disease that causes red, itchy, and scaly patches on the skin. It can flare up for a few weeks or months before going into remission. There is no known cause of psoriasis, but it is thought to be the result of an immune system reaction that causes the skin to regenerate at faster than normal rates, creating scaly patches. These patches may present as a few affected spots, or can cover much larger areas, typically around the knees, elbows, trunk, and scalp.
While there is no cure for psoriasis, there are many treatments that can help manage your symptoms. Topical treatments, like corticosteroids, are usually the first choice for psoriasis treatment. Other topical treatments include Vitamin D analogues, retinoids, calcineurin inhibitors, salicylic acid, coal tar, and anthralin. You may also try oral or injected therapies, though these are usually only prescribed if you have moderate to severe psoriasis, or if other treatments haven’t worked. These include prescription strength steroids, retinoids, oral steroids such as methotrexate, an immunosuppressive such as cyclosporine (Neoral), or biologics such as Cimzia, Cosentyx, Enbrel, Humira, Skyrizi, Stelara, Siliq, Taltz, Tremfya, and Remicade.
Though part of the function of your skin is to protect your body from infections, sometimes the skin itself can also become infected. These infections can be caused by a wide variety of germs, and symptoms can vary from mild to serious.
Mild infections may be treatable with over-the-counter medications and home remedies, whereas other infections may require medical attention. Your provider may prescribe antibiotic medications like azithromycin, amoxicillin, cephalexin to treat your infection.
Hair loss, known clinically as alopecia, can affect just your scalp or your entire body, and it can be temporary or permanent. There are many possible causes for hair loss, though it is most commonly the result of heredity, hormonal changes, medical conditions or can be just a normal part of the aging process. It is possible for anyone to lose hair on their head, but it’s more common in men.
If you’re interested in treating your hair loss, there are a few treatments available to prevent further hair loss or restore growth. There are ways to reverse hair loss, or at least slow it. With some conditions, such as patchy hair loss (alopecia areata), hair may regrow without treatment within a year. Treatments for hair loss include medications, such as minoxidil, finasteride, and both surgical and non surgical procedures. Make sure to talk with your provider about the cause of your hair loss and treatment options.
Whatever skin condition you are dealing with, a visit to the dermatologist will be able to help. You can prepare for your appointment by writing down whatever skin or hair care products you currently use, as well as any medications you are currently taking. Sometimes it also helps to bring photos of your past flare-ups if you have them. Taking the time to care for you skin can go a long way towards ensuring your overall health—so book your visit today.