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7 Reasons to Visit a Dermatologist

Why the Health of Your Skin Should Be a Top Priority

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If you've never really had a severe problem with your complexion (making your friends green with envy), then consider yourself pretty lucky. Soap and water have always done the trick for you, so you’re probably well past the age of needing to see a dermatologist, right?

Well, not so fast.

While many people think of dermatologists as "acne doctors," that’s only one small part of what these skillful experts can do for our health. In addition to treating acne, dermatologists care for a wide range of diseases and cosmetic problems related to not just the skin, but the scalp, hair and nails as well. It’s never too early (and at times, never too late!) to see a dermatologist either; in fact, just about everyone can benefit from paying a visit to this type of medical specialist.

You already take care of your body by committing to a regular fitness routine, eating healthy food and participating in other healthy habits, so naturally, you should be taking the best possible care of your body's largest—and most visible organ: your skin.

Still not convinces that you should see a dermatologist? Here are seven important ways a visit to the dermatologist could benefit you.

Chronic Skin Conditions
Do you have itchy, red or flaky skin? Are over-the-counter creams and lotions just not working? You may think that the cause of your dry skin is the weather, sensitivity to skincare products or even genetics, but in reality, you could be suffering from a chronic skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis. These skin conditions (and a slew of others) can be treated effectively while under the care of a dermatologist. Prescription-strength moisturizing lotions and steroid treatments are often prescribed to help relieve itchiness and minimize redness. Though these strong medicines can help you feel more comfortable in your own skin, they will not cure this type of skin ailment. At times, both eczema and psoriasis can go away without treatment, but until that happens, don’t suffer. Get the relief you need by making an appointment with a dermatologist if you are experiencing these symptoms and they aren’t going away on their own.

Annual Skin Cancer Screenings
Did you know that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer? According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3.5 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the United States alone—that’s more than all other cancers combined! And, like all cancers, early detection is essential for the best prognosis and treatment. Adults are advised to visit their dermatologist each year for an annual skin cancer screening in order to not only detect the presence of the disease, but possibly even prevent it.

You should also always examine your own skin between skin cancer screenings, too. If you notice significant changes in your skin, don’t wait for your annual appointment to arrive. If you see a scaly rash, discolorations, markings or changes in the size, shape, texture or color of moles or spots on your skin, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist right away!

Adult Acne
This may seem like a no-brainer, but all too often adults forgo visiting dermatologists for common skin issues like acne. Many adults blame their acne on things like stress or a bad diet, and think blemishes and pimples will simply go away on their own. Other people are too embarrassed to see a dermatologist, which is one of the worst things they can do for their skin. But when natural at-home skin care remedies and over-the-counter acne creams, gels and masks just aren’t working for you, your skin should be under a dermatologist’s expert care. And if your blemishes appear as deeper nodules, this is usually a sign that you need more aggressive acne treatments like oral medications, antibiotics and topical gels that are available by prescription only. Plus, if you’re suffering from acne scarring, dermatologists are equipped with innovative techniques that can minimize the appearance of scars.  

Nail Disorders
Your nails aren't just a way to accessorize or add color to your look (nail art, anyone?). They can actually reveal much about the overall health of your body. In fact, certain diseases and health conditions can be detected by taking a closer look at your nails. Sure, nails take a lot of abuse and injury each day, but a dermatologist can actually detect more serious disorders such as liver disease, heart conditions, anemia or diabetes by examining your nails. Minor nail disorders like ingrown nails, white spots, fungal infections and warts can be treated effectively with prescriptions made by your dermatologist, too.

If you notice any symptoms such as changes in nail color or shape, swelling of the skin around your nails, pain in the nail area, persistent white or black lines, or dents and ridges, make an appointment with a dermatologist for treatment, or to possibly rule out a more serious medical condition.

Hair Loss
Have you noticed more hair in your brush or comb lately? You may need to see a dermatologist for that. Millions of men and women suffer from hair loss and other scalp disorders, but few know that help is just a trip to the dermatologist away. If you’re male and have a receding hairline, or are experiencing a little bit of hair loss on the top of your scalp, make an appointment with a dermatologist as soon as possible to hinder the loss of more hair. If you’re a woman and notice thinning on the front and top of your scalp, yes, you guessed it, don’t put off scheduling an appointment! Dermatologists can restore hair in men and women by way of hair transplants, advanced laser therapies and injectable or topical steroids.

There are also instances when hair loss can be caused by underlying medical conditions you may not know about. If you’re a woman (especially a younger woman) and have additional symptoms along with your thinning hair, such as more acne and abnormal menstrual cycles, your hair loss could be attributed to a more serious medical condition such as polycystic ovary disease (PCOS), hypothyroidism, an autoimmune disease or even certain cancers.

The Scar Treatment
If you’ve suffered from moderate to severe acne in the past, you most likely have some scarring. Scarring can also come from popping occasional pimples, cuts and scrapes to the skin. Some scars are more unsightly than others and may make you feel self-conscious. If your scars are holding you back from living a quality life, a dermatologist can help. Yes, scars are permanent, but advancements in medical technology can help minimize the appearance of scars significantly. During your initial appointment, your dermatologist will examine your scars to determine what type of treatment is best for your skin. For deep facial scarring, treatments can include dermal fillers or more advanced surgical procedures like skin grafting. Skin resurfacing techniques such as laser treatment therapy and microdermabrasion can also be great options depending on the type of scarring.

Whether you have some mild scars, hyperpigmentation or deeper scarring from cystic acne, a trained dermatologist will be able to help you - and the results can be astounding.

When Your Skin Just Doesn’t Seem Right
If you notice something out of the ordinary when it comes to your skin, hair or nails, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a dermatologist. Perhaps you have a scratch that should’ve healed long ago, a strange rash that won’t go away or you’re simply just worried that something is wrong. Don’t put off that phone call. You know your body best, so if something doesn’t look or feel right, take the steps needed in order to be your healthiest.

Worried about the cost of a dermatologist visit?
If you’re like many people, you’re probably concerned about the cost of seeing a dermatologist. If you have it, health insurance should cover at least part of the cost if you’re seeing a dermatologist for a medical reason. Sometimes, cosmetic reasons can also be covered, but it’s not the norm. Whatever you do, don’t play the guessing game when it comes to insurance coverage. It’s always wise to check with your health insurance provider before you make an appointment with any doctor. If you don't have insurance, simply call up the office and find out exactly what their rates are for office visits, examinations, screenings or other procedures—and make the decision that fits your budget. Many dermatology practices offer financing and other billing options.

Sources

American Academy of Dermatology. www.aad.org.   

American Cancer Society. "Be Safe In the Sun," accessed February 25, 2013. www.cancer.org.

Bailey, Eileen. "5 Reasons to See a Dermatologist," accessed February 25, 2013. www.healthcentral.com.

Vann, Madeline. "Should You See a Dermatologist?" Accessed February 25, 2013. www.everydayhealth.com.

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About The Author

Natalie Nichols Natalie Nichols
Natalie lost nearly 30 pounds the SparkPeople way before becoming a health and beauty contributor to the site. A self-proclaimed "girly girl," Natalie couldn't bear to break a sweat when she was younger, but now can't imagine living a life without exercise. In her spare time she practices yoga, enjoys cooking and stays involved in her community. Leading by example, she hopes to inspire others to live healthier and happier lifestyles, too.

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