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What Is a Dermatology Physician?

Raised skin mole.
Flat skin mole.
A dermatologist physician will specialize in the health of the skin, scalp, hair, and nails.
Article Details
  • Written By: Clara Kedrek
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 30 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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A dermatology physician, also known as a dermatologist, is a medical doctor who specializes in the health of the skin, scalp, hair, and nails. Typically, dermatologists finish medical school and a residency program before becoming licensed in their field. These physicians often spend their time working in outpatient clinics, seeing hospitalized patients, and interpreting laboratory tests. They can treat a wide variety of conditions, and are also able to provide a number of in-office therapeutic procedures.

In order to become a fully certified dermatology physician, a number of years of training are required. Future dermatologists need to finish high school, an undergraduate degree, and medical school. After that, they must complete a residency in dermatology, which typically involves four additional years of training. During this residency period they learn how to treat a variety of conditions, and are trained in how to perform different procedures. Upon finishing the program, residents are eligible to take a licensing exam that will allow them to become a dermatology physician.

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On a daily basis, a dermatology physician most often spends time seeing patients in an outpatient clinic. Some of these doctors also take time to see patients in the hospital who develop problems with their skin, hair, or nails. Others have taken specialized training in pathology, which is a branch of medicine that focuses on examining body tissue on a microscopic level to understand the disease processes causing problems. Experience in this field allows dermatologists to take skin biopsies from patients and interpret what diseases best explain their symptoms, allowing them to offer the best treatment regimens.

Dermatology physicians can treat a broad variety of conditions. The most common skin diseases they treat include acne, psoriasis, skin infections, sexually transmitted diseases, atopic dermatitis, and abnormal skin growths such as moles. Systemic underlying diseases often manifest themselves as skin or hair abnormalities, so dermatologists need to be knowledgeable about a wide range of conditions. A patient who goes to a dermatology clinic after noticing a skin abnormality could be alerted to a more severe underlying problem by an alert dermatologist.

One of the unique aspects of being a dermatology physician is the ability to treat diseases with medicines while also being able to treat them with surgical procedures. Perhaps one of the commonest procedures that dermatologists perform is a skin biopsy, which allows for microscopic examination of the disease processes going on in the skin. They also frequently perform excisional biopsies — in other words, they remove abnormal skin growths such as moles. Many of these physicians have alsobeen trained in how to remove tattoos, a procedure that requires sequential laser treatments.

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