A dermatologist holds a magnifying glass up to examine a hand

What is a Dermatologist?

A dermatologist is a medical specialist who treats diseases relating to skin, hair, nails, and the mucous membranes (or the lining in your mouth, nose and eyelids). Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it protects you from a number of diseases inside the body. However, there are a number of diseases that can affect the skin itself. Dermatologists are highly trained medical experts who treat these diseases and conduct research on skin diseases.

With over 3,000 types of skin diseases, dermatologists have to be skilled at spotting and treating all of these diseases. Because of this, they go through as much medical training as any other kind of medical practitioner. All registered dermatologists have earned a bachelor’s degree, a medical doctorate (MD), or a doctorate of osteopathic medicine (DO), and have completed a one-year internship and a three-year dermatology residency.

Common kinds of skin diseases that dermatologists treat on a regular basis are skin cancer, warts, acne, fungal infections, dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema, and cold sores. To diagnose and treat these and other skin-related diseases, dermatologists perform physical examinations. These examinations may be simple observations of the affected area, or more thorough blacklight examinations.

Dermatologists can treat skin diseases in a variety of ways. Common diseases like acne or fungal infections are often treated with simple antibiotics. However, the severity of the skin disease always affects the intensity of the medication. For instance, moderate acne may be treated with antibiotics or topical creams, but the most severe acne can be treated with one of the most intense FDA-approved medications, called Accutane. Accutane is commonly prescribed by dermatologists, but in order to take it, there are monthly FDA-required blood tests, birth control procedures, and required counseling.

Other skin diseases cannot always be treated by antibiotics. Some skin problems can literally be cut from the skin. Warts and moles are often treated by being cut, frozen, or burnt off the skin. Some forms of skin cancer can be removed. However, more severe types may require laser or x-ray surgery to remove the cancer cells.

Dermatologists work in similar settings to other doctors. Many work in outpatient centers or group practice clinics. Others work in hospitals, research centers, or academic institutions. Compared to other kinds of medical specialties, dermatologists have a reputation for having more of a relaxed work flow and environment.

Dermatologists are important medical specialists to know, because they help protect your biggest organ. They can help your skin look and feel better than it would with infections and diseases. If you’re thinking about becoming a medical doctor of some kind and are interested in skin diseases, dermatology may be the career for you. 

Last Updated: July 06, 2016