Lydia Klufas, MD Explains When It May Be Time to Reach out to a Skin Specialist

While many Americans remain skeptical about visiting medical professionals, this approach can be extremely dangerous in many cases.  When it comes to skin health, which troubles over 85 million Americans per year, not going to a doctor can quickly evolve into a life-threatening situation.  Most skin cancers, for example, are asymptomatic. It is rare for a patient to come in complaining of pain or soreness at the site of an actual malignancy.  Thus, unless a growth is already bleeding, one might not seek help until it is too late. It takes a trained eye to diagnose and treat skin cancers. Skin cancers are curable if caught early enough.  And, as Dr. Klufas likes to remind folks, “When in doubt, check it out!”

Who Handles Skin Health
Before venturing to see a specialist, it is important to learn which medical experts deal with skin-related issues. The formal name for this branch of medicine is dermatology, and it has been around for more than 3,000 years. Doctors who work in the field are called dermatologists, and, contrary to popular belief, they do not only focus on skin health; their field of expertise further includes conditions that affect the hair and nails as well. So, when exactly is it time for you to go see a dermatologist? 

On-Going Issues
According to skin medicine expert Dr. Lydia Klufas from Cumberland, Rhode Island, on-going issues are the first clue that you should see a specialist.  For instance, when you have been battling with acne for a long time and over-the-counter medications are not helping, you might need further evaluation.  Some patients have an underlying hormonal problem, or are using treatments which are actually contributing to their skin problem. Possibly some lifestyle factors may also be playing a role in a recurrent skin condition. Without dermatology training, however, it may be difficult or impossible to pinpoint the cause.  

Skin Cancer Screenings
According to the Center for Disease Control, people who have unusual moles or notice changes in their skin should report them to their doctor. While going to a general physician is better than doing nothing, a dermatologist has much more experience in spotting which lesions or growths might be concerning.  By the same token, years of expertise enable dermatologists to reassure patients that their growth or mole is “nothing to worry about.” You should make skin cancer screenings an annual habit. Dr. Klufas says an easy way to remember when you are next due for your screening is to go around the time of your birthday.  This way you’ll never forget your annual “birthday suit” check.

Inability to Find Answers
Sometimes, you may run into skin abnormalities that go beyond internet searches.  After all, Dr. Lydia Klufas reminds us that the vast majority of the data available online from “Dr. Google” is not sufficient to form a proper diagnosis.  Whenever you are unable to obtain the right information, your next step should be to let an experienced professional guide you. You may possibly have some type of unusual condition which certainly warrants professional attention or a biopsy.

Your At-Home Remedies Have Failed
If you can accurately self-diagnose, there is nothing wrong with attempting some at-home remedies.  Dr. Lydia Klufas notes that many of her patients spend a considerable amount of time trying to figure out ways to deal with issues like rashes or discoloration on their own. The problem arises when your solutions turn out to be futile. Once you realize that the vast majority of the products or dietary changes you have tried have had very little effect, you should seek advice from a dermatologist.  Doing so could result in less spending on random over-the-counter treatments by helping you find the right products fast. With trial and error, you could rack up a substantial amount of money lost on useless, ineffective creams, gels and other products which do not work. A case in point is in severe acne. There are patients who have been battling severe nodulocystic acne for years despite using many different over-the-counter and prescription medications. These patients may need to be prescribed Accutane, or isotretinoin, a highly effective oral medicine which can clear acne and thus prevent scarring. Dermatologists have a great deal of experience in prescribing and managing isotretinoin therapy.  For the right patient, dermatologists believe it is as close as you can get to a “cure” for acne.

Unfamiliar Rashes
Whenever you see something unusual on your skin, such as an unfamiliar rash, you should do your best to determine the cause.  The first step is to review all of the items you might have come in contact with over the last few days such as any new creams, soaps, detergents, plants, etc.  Sometimes the culprit is obvious, and sometimes not. And, believe it or not, you can develop an allergy to a product which you have used for many years. Some allergies actually develop over time.  Occasionally, manufacturers change the formulation of their products without letting you know. How many times have you seen products advertised as “new and improved”? If you have no idea what caused the rash, you need to contact a dermatologist.   As they try to confirm the source, they will further determine if the rash is indicative of an underlying condition or a chronic problem. For example, even though atopic dermatitis can present as a minor rash, it is a chronic form of eczema which often requires long-term specialized care.

Hair Loss, Excessive Sweating, Skin Discoloration, Warts and Fragile Nails…
Patients can face a whole host of skin problems throughout their lifetime.  Ultimately, if you have skin symptoms or changes which you cannot easily self-diagnose, you should go to your dermatologist.  Our expertise in skin, hair and nails will help you by making the right diagnosis and finding the best treatments so you can live a long and healthy life.