Dermatologists are medical doctors who specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the hair, skin and nails.
They see patients, act as consultants to other specialists, and may be involved in teaching and clinical or other research. They must be familiar with other specialties because skin diseases are often associated with internal conditions.
They conduct complete skin examinations, record patients' health histories, diagnose and treat skin conditions such as skin cancer, warts, athlete's foot, fungal infections, eczema, acne, dermatitis and a disease called psoriasis. They recommend diagnostic tests based on patients' histories and physical examination findings. They counsel patients on the need for annual dermatologic screenings, sun protection, skin cancer awareness, or skin and lymph node self-examinations.
They perform incisional biopsies to diagnose melanoma and perform skin surgery in many situations, for example, to provide early control over diseases such as skin cancer, to improve the skin’s appearance by removing growths, discolourations or damage caused by aging, sunlight or disease. These delicate operations for medical or cosmetic purposes, involve the use of modern equipment such as laser machines, e.g. to treat varicose veins and wrinkles.
They may prescribe hormonal agents or topical treatments such as contraceptives, oral corticosteroids, retinoids and antibiotics. Dermabrasion or laser abrasion can be used to treat scars or other skin conditions. Therapies such as steroids, chemical peels and comodo removal to treat age spots, sun damage, rough or discoloured skin, may be used. They conduct or order diagnostic tests such as chest x-rays, microbiologic tests and endocrinologic tests. Patients will be evaluated to determine their eligibility for cosmetic procedures such as lipsuction, laser resurfacing and microdermabrasion. As well as conducting clinical or basic research, they need to instruct interns or residents in diagnosis and treatment of dermatological diseases and provide consultation to other health professionals.
This field of medicine is constantly changing and dermatologists must keep abreast of new developments. They need to read current literature, talk with colleagues, and participate in professional organisations or conferences to keep abreast of developments. New drugs may cause unusual side-effects, pesticides, industrial compounds and cosmetics often pose new dermatological problems.