When discussing health, people often forget to include the body’s largest and fastest-growing organ: the skin. As such, skin conditions that shouldn’t be ignored or discounted often are, even when treatment and relief is readily available. Dermatology is the branch of medicine devoted to the skin as well as the hair, scalp, nails and mucous membranes. Dermatologists specialize in the examination, diagnosis and treatment of skin disorders and diseases – more than 3,000 of them, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
The skin is susceptible to a wide variety of conditions, from harmless but irritating issues to serious (and even deadly) illnesses. Dermatologists can examine and remove moles, screen for cancerous and precancerous growths, treat ongoing conditions such as acne, rosacea, psoriasis and eczema, and treat temporary rashes including hives, infections and viral skin conditions.
Dermatology is often the first line of defense against serious skin cancers, such as melanoma. A dermatologist can perform an annual skin examination to screen for irregular moles, determine if any moles pose a risk for cancer, and decide whether any of them need to be removed. The doctor can also screen for cancerous growths, precancerous lesions, and determine if any skin discoloration is normal or potentially harmful.
General dermatology also treats recurrent skin conditions such as acne vulgaris, an inflammation of the sebaceous oil glands that affects about 90 percent of people in the U.S, and rosacea, a condition that includes redness of the skin and red, raised bumps, usually on the forehead, cheeks, nose and chin.
Although many skin conditions aren’t curable, dermatologists can treat and ease their symptoms. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is chronically dry, itchy, irritated skin that can be helped by prescription medication, such as topical steroid creams, in addition to daily moisturization. Psoriasis is another incurable skin condition that dermatologists can treat using prescription creams, ointments and oral medications as well as sunlamp therapy and the application of skin dressings.