The key to diagnosing a specific skin disorder is the visual observation of symptoms, sometimes coupled with further testing, such as a biopsy of the affected area to confirm the diagnosis. Is the area scaly, inflamed, oozing, bleeding or has it changed in appearance? These are some of the indicators to diagnose the many skin disorders.
There is a long and varied list of skin disorders, some of which are listed below:
- Cellulitis: a bacterial skin infection
- Skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell, melanoma
- Tinea versicolor: a fungal skin infection
- Seborrheic dermatitis
Many patients start their dermatologic diagnosis with their primary care physician (PCP). While PCPs are adept at diagnosing the obvious disorders, there are physician specialists who accurately diagnose and treat more complex skin disorders.
- Dermatologist: This board-certified physician specializes in the care of healthy skin as well as skin, hair and nail disorders and conditions. Dermatologists develop a treatment plan for skin conditions and also perform surgery, mostly outpatient, to remove skin cancers and other abnormalities.
- Plastic surgeon: After surgically removing a skin cancer or other area of concern, a plastic surgeon can expertly repair the site to keep scarring to a minimum.
The Diagnostic Tests
Diagnostic testing for skin disorders begins with astute observations skills, by the patient and the consulting healthcare professionals. Patients should do monthly, visual full body checks for changes in their skin condition.
- Physical examination: A complete skin check by a dermatologist is important to the early diagnosis of skin cancer and the assessment and treatment of all other skin conditions.
- Skin biopsy: A small sample of the skin lesion is removed by a dermatologist and sent for laboratory analysis. Based upon the results of the tissue biopsy, a treatment plan is developed.
Based upon the results of diagnostic testing, a treatment plan will be developed. There are a wide variety of options including, but not limited to:
- Some cases require surgical excision of a skin lesion, especially skin cancer.
- Corticosteroids reduce inflammation. Topical creams are most common but oral steroids are used in some cases.
- Antifungal medication treats fungal skin infections. Again, topical creams are most common but oral medication is sometimes needed.
- Antibiotics are used to treat cellulitis, an infection within the skin.
- Antiviral drugs treat the herpes virus, which can present in cold sores and genital sores.
- Antihistamines reduce the itching that is often a symptom of skin conditions like eczema.
- Moisturizers are a simple skin treatment to reduce the dry and itchy symptoms that accompany many skin disorders.
Skin disorders require a variety of treatments to control a vast collection of symptoms. Seek professional medical advise for the proper diagnosis and care.