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What to Know Before Going to a Dermatologist

June 8, 2020
dermatologist checking out patient's mole with magnifying glass

Are you visiting a dermatologist for the first time, or planning to book your first dermatology consultation? Visiting a dermatologist isn’t exactly like visiting your primary care physician, and knowing everything you need to know before your appointment can make your first visit as smooth and productive as possible.

What should a patient know before going to a dermatologist? A patient should understand exactly what a dermatologist does and what they treat, and the telltale signs that it is time to get expert help with your skin, hair or nails. Finally, you should understand the best ways to prepare for the appointment and the most common mistakes to avoid during the visit.

What Does a Dermatologist Do?

Before you visit a dermatologist, you should understand exactly what dermatologists do and how they help their patients. In short, dermatology is the study and treatment of health issues related to the hair, nails, skin, and mucous membranes.

The largest organ in the body is the skin, covering the body’s entire outer surface and protecting it from injury and pathogens. The health of your skin is the first line of defense of your body’s health, which is why it is crucial to keep it as healthy as possible. Dermatologists are the doctors who best understand the interaction between the body and the skin, and how even simple rashes and other conditions can be signs of serious diseases.

So what are the most common reasons why people see dermatologists? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, dermatologists can diagnose and treat over 3,000 conditions. The most common conditions that dermatologists treat are “cosmetic” like acne, or mild issues that mostly affect self-esteem and image. 

Here are some common conditions dermatologists treat:

  • Acne
  • Acne scars
  • Eczema and dermatitis
  • Hair loss
  • Nail problems
  • Warts
  • Fungal infections
  • Skin cancer
  • Shingles
  • Rosacea
  • Psoriasis
  • Vitiligo

If it is your first time seeing a dermatologist, you may want to have some idea as to the exact purpose of your visit, and whether or not this is within the expertise of your preferred dermatologist.

Can a Dermatologist Really Help?

Most of us may only have experience dealing with general practitioners or primary care physicians, and seeing a specialist doctor like a dermatologist may feel like taking an unnecessary visit to a hospital or clinic. One of the most common questions we get from interested patients is, “Can a dermatologist really help with my condition? What can I expect during my visit?”

Yes, if your condition is related to the skin, hair, nails, and the underlying connection between these, then a dermatologist should have the advanced knowledge and training to diagnose, treat, and help you. 

Additionally, just because you might think that your condition is a cosmetic problem doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need to be evaluated by a professional. There are many cases where patients think that a sudden “pimple” might just be another pimple, but actually ends up being an early skin cancer.

Dermatologists are trained to spot, diagnose, and treat issues of the skin that other doctors might not catch. Here are some ways that serious conditions can be linked to a “cosmetic” condition:

  • Diabetes patients are 50% likelier to show signs of psoriasis
  • Eczema patients are at high-risk of developing serious eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma
  • Major depression is commonly linked to patients suffering severe acne
  • A sudden and severe loss of fat around the face can be a sign of AIDS

Common Dermatologist Procedures

So how exactly do dermatologists treat both cosmetic and medical issues? Dermatologists can employ a range of invasive and noninvasive treatments. These treatments can be performed in a hospital, but most dermatologists practice at a private clinic or office.

Some of the most common procedures performed by a dermatologist include:

  1. Chemical Peels: Using a chemical solution to force the top layer of the skin to peel, allowing it to regenerate
  2. Lesion Excision: Lesions may need to be excised or removed for a variety of reasons, such as the prevention of disease, cosmetic reasons, or prevention of infection
  3. Microdermabrasion: Removing the skin’s top layer to improve general appearance
  4. Laser Surgery: Laser, or light-based technology used to treat wrinkles, scars, moles, tumors, remove tattoos, and more
  5. Biopsies: Skin biopsies are performed when suspected conditions need to be ruled out or diagnosed
  6. Mohs Surgery: A specialized cancer surgery, usually performed on the face, that involves removing cancerous cells from the skin
  7. Skin Grafts: Replacing missing skin with skin from other parts of the body
  8. Cryotherapy: A treatment for benign conditions that utilizes liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy a specific affected area
  9. Skin Resurfacing: Laser technology used to create new, healthy skin tissue to increase collagen production resulting in younger-looking skin
  10. Cosmetic Injections: The use of Botox and/or dermal fillers to reduce scarring, wrinkles, and the appearance of fine lines

When is it Time to See a Dermatologist?

Seeing a dermatologist for the first time might not be something that most people are inclined to do. You might not think you have a serious condition or something to be worried about, so you might just prefer to ignore the problem and let it heal on its own. So how exactly do you know that it is time to see a dermatologist? 

If you are asking yourself any of the following questions, then it might be time to check in with a dermatologist:

What is this stubborn rash and why won’t it go away? 

When over-the-counter creams or lotions won’t heal a stubborn rash, then it might be time to book an appointment. Diagnosing a rash yourself can be difficult because most rashes look the same to the untrained eye, whereas dermatologists are trained to understand the different shapes and patterns of rashes, and what those various rashes might be.

Why are my nails becoming a different color?

Nail discoloration is frequently a sign of fungal infections, although this can also be a sign of nutritional deficiencies, aging, medications, and various diseases. If this happens to you, you’ll want to visit a dermatologist to understand and treat your exact problem.

What is this new spot on my body?

New moles or changes in old moles are signs that you need a professional evaluation from a dermatologist. These can be signs of cancer, and detecting cancer as early as possible is the best way to defeat it.

Why has my skin become extra sensitive and also dry?

As you get older, the immune system of your skin gradually weakens due to environmental factors like pollens and UV rays. An annual screening with a dermatologist is the best way to understand the exact cause of your skin drying out and becoming sensitive.

Why won’t my acne go away?

Most people experience at least some form of acne, but for an unlucky few, acne can stick around longer than normal. In other cases, while your acne may go away, it may also leave you with acne scarring. Dermatologists have acne treatments, medications, and products specifically designed for any level of acne or acne scarring.

How Do I Prepare for a Dermatologist Appointment?

1) Check with your insurance provider 

Most insurance plans cover dermatology visits but keep in mind that cosmetic treatments such as CoolSculpting, Botox or other injectables, are likely not covered by insurance. 

Review your health insurance policy or call your insurer before you book an appointment to understand any costs that may be associated with your visit. Insurance providers typically provide coverage for treatments for chronic skin conditions like psoriasis, acne, eczema, and cancer. Other skin conditions that are typically covered by insurance include fungal, bacterial or viral skin infections, rashes, hives, allergies, and warts.

2) Prepare your questions beforehand

Start your visit knowing exactly what you may want to ask. Make a full list of concerns, pre-existing medical conditions, any medication used, and family history to give your doctor context. Also mention any previous skin diseases you’ve experienced, including seasonal ones. 

Listing your concerns before your appointment ensures that you get the most out of your dermatological visit, instead of forgetting your most urgent questions and only remembering them once you’ve stepped out of the clinic. 

With extra information prepared in advance, your dermatologist will have a better understanding of your medical background, skin issues, and any treatments you’ve received, which will allow your doctor to provide a treatment plan moving forward.

3) Don’t expect quick fixes

Too many patients go into dermatology clinics thinking a quick treatment or appointment will completely transform their skin. If you’re undergoing treatments for chronic skin conditions, expect some trial and error before you get the results you actually want. 

Keep in mind that different patients experience varying results. Someone with your exact skin type might get amazing results in minimal time, while you might have to wait weeks before seeing the slightest improvement. Even then, in some circumstances, the most that your dermatologist might be able to accomplish is just getting your condition under control. 

During your dermatology visit, always ask what you can expect from the treatment so you can set proper expectations. Expect to book follow-up visits so your doctor can reassess your treatment plan and decide if you need to add, remove, or swap any of your existing medication or dermatological procedures. 

4) Research your injectables

Cosmetic procedures require just as much research as medical procedures, if not more. The compounds in injectables might not react well with certain medications or diets, which is why it’s important to provide a full medical and personal background to your dermatologist. 

Avoid the risk of experiencing side effects by properly preparing for your cosmetic treatments. 

6) Don’t hesitate to bring pictures

On top of providing your complete medical records, your doctor would also appreciate it if you brought in pictures. This will help them diagnose and understand acute skin conditions and other sporadic problems. 

If you’re undergoing cosmetic procedures, bringing in a younger picture of yourself will give them a better understanding of your facial structure. This will acquaint your dermatologist with what your face looked like when it was young, making any attempt to recreate your youthful appearance much easier. 

7) Always book treatments in advance

Never book treatments on the same day as important events such as a party or work-related function. Even lunchtime procedures that can be completed in 30 minutes can result in side effects that take hours, if not days, to completely heal. 

Side effects can include anything from bruising to swelling to drooping. Make sure to schedule your treatments far enough in advance. If you have questions about how far in advance is far enough, simply call your dermatologist’s office and ask them. 

4 Important Dermatologist Visit Reminders

Are you going to a dermatologist appointment for the first time? Make your appointment as smooth as possible by following these guidelines:

1) Wear the Gown 

Make physical exams easier by undressing and wearing the examination gown provided to you. Dermatologists ask you to wear a gown for two reasons: Without clothing, your dermatologist can accurately inspect your body.  Also, your dermatologist can inspect one body part and then another without having to fiddle with your clothing.

The next time you’re up for a dermatology visit, dress down and use the examination gown for a smoother check-up. 

2) Take Note of What You’re Using

Dermatologists might be skin experts, but you can’t expect them to know every topical or oral treatment that exists. Whenever you’re consulting about a specific product, always make sure that you have a photo of the product, including the product name, its medicinal strength, and any other chemical compositions. 

In dermatology, two seemingly identical creams can have strengths that differ by just 1% to 5%. This difference alone can yield entirely different results, which is why it’s crucial to take note of what product you’re using. 

3) Skip the Nail Polish

Your nails can inform your dermatologist about underlying health problems. For instance, the shape of your nails can be a signal of deficiencies and other health conditions that would otherwise remain hidden, both related to dermatology and your overall health. 

4) Use Your Skincare Products

Too many patients make the mistake of thinking that dermatologists want to see their “bare faces.” While it’s true that you shouldn’t go to your dermatology appointment with layers of thick makeup, this doesn’t mean you should also skip your daily skincare regimen. This is especially true if you are using prescription medicine to treat certain skin conditions. Ultimately, your dermatologist will want to assess how your skin is reacting to the medication.

On the day of your appointment, don’t neglect to apply any serums, creams, and whatever else you use on a daily basis unless specified otherwise. When in doubt, you can always call ahead of your appointment and verify if there will be tests that require you not to put anything on your face. 

Schedule Your Dermatology Visit Today

Walk-in Dermatology is a state-of-the-art dermatology clinic in Greenvale, NY. We offer teledermatology and in-person visits, making it easier for patients to get access to professional advice, medication, skincare products, and treatments. 

Visit our services page for a full list of cosmetic and medical services we offer. You can book an appointment by calling us at (516) 621-1982 or booking online through our website.