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Dermatology consultants are dermatologists who provide advice and assistance with the treatment of skin disease in a patient. Patients might approach dermatologists directly to ask for help, or they can be referred by another physician who wants an expert opinion on a skin condition. General practitioners and other doctors do not have the same extensive training in skin care that dermatologists receive. They might prefer to use a consultant to get the best possible care for a patient.
In medical school and residency, dermatologists learn about a broad variety of skin conditions, from fungal infections to cancer. They study dermatopathology, which is the science of skin disease, and they learn to treat skin, hair, nail and scalp conditions. Their work also can include surgical procedures. Some of them focus on more cosmetic topics and might assist patients with skin concerns that are primarily aesthetic in nature.
Doctors can call upon dermatology consultants if they encounter cases that include skin issues. A patient might be turned over to a dermatologist if a problem appears to be centered on the skin, or the dermatologist can join a treatment team to handle a complex case. Patients might develop skin problems as a result of extended hospitalization, for example, and dermatology consultants can help prevent and manage these issues. They also can provide training to nurses who offer patient care, to make sure that the patient's skin receives adequate support during a hospitalization.
Some dermatology consultants work in hospitals and are available to doctors who call for dermatology consults. Patients might not be able to see them without referrals. A dermatologist can offer a one-time opinion on a skin condition or might become part of a treatment team if the issue is complex. Dermatopathologists also can act as dermatology consultants and might examine samples and skin scrapings in a lab environment to learn more about the origins of skin lesions.
It also is possible for a dermatology consultant to work in a private clinic or skin care facility. These consultants might see a mixture of referrals from other doctors and walk-in patients who actively seek them out to get help with a skin condition. They can evaluate patients to offer advice and treatment recommendations and might provide referrals if necessary. For example, if a patient has melanoma, the dermatology consultant might recommend seeing an oncologist for a full evaluation to check for metastases and cooperatively develop a treatment plan, relying on the skills of both the oncologist and the dermatologist.