The human body is a complex system of interworking organs, networks, systems and functions. Each element of the body must be properly cared for and maintained in order to continue to function correctly, and each element requires its own basic treatments to do so. We eat healthy foods to ensure proper digestive health, exercise to keep our hearts pumping correctly, avoid smoking or other hazardous elements to maintain our lungs and take countless other steps to care for individual aspects of our health and our bodies as a whole.
However, the health of the largest and most visible organ of the human body is often overlooked in proper treatment. We may take many steps to ensure the appearance of our skin is maintained, but many people do not understand or practice all that goes into having healthy skin.
Dermatology is the branch of medical science dealing with the skin, hair and nails, and any diseases or conditions thereof. Dermatologists can treat problems that may arise, but basic skin care can help most people avoid dangerous– and potentially life-threatening– skin conditions.
The skin is the largest organ of the human body, and it is the first line of defense against injury, bacteria and disease. With that being said, the health of an individual’s skin can often be a reflection of the person’s overall health. Dermatologists are the medical specialists who diagnose and treat conditions of the skin, but the field of dermatology also includes the hair, nails and mucous membranes.
Because of the variety of areas covered and the vast array of conditions and diseases which could occur, dermatologists are some of the most versatile medical doctors. Some of the most common conditions that are treated by dermatologists include:
- Acne: A common disease that affects the oil glands of the skin, acne causes the appearance of troublesome and unsightly pimples and blackheads. Dermatologists may use a number of treatments for acne, including benzoyl peroxide, oral or topical antibiotics, hormonal treatment and tretinoin treatment. Additionally, laser surgery or dermabrasion may be used to remove acne scars.
- Dermatitis: An inflammation of the skin, dermatitis can take many different forms and often leads to swelling and/or an itchy rash. Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is one of the most common and well-known forms. Different types of dermatitis may require different treatments, but some of the most effective include topical creams, antihistamines (to reduce itching), oral steroids, steroid cream, antibiotics (to treat potential infection) and others, depending on the type and severity of the condition.
- Fungal Infections: Fungus can invade areas of the body, such as the skin, nails or hair, creating a fungal infection. Although these infections are common and generally mild, symptoms may be more serious for individuals with reduced immunity. Treatments can include topical creams, oral antibiotics, antibiotic cream and others, depending on the type and severity of the infection.
- Skin Cancer: Almost one in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer within their lifetimes, but early treatment can resolve most cancers before they become life-threatening. There are multiple forms of skin cancer, and treatment may vary according to the form the disease takes. Some treatments include Mohs surgery, curettage and desiccation, radiation therapy, cryosurgery and surgical excision, but prevention is always the best treatment.
Dermatology also involves more than the identification and treatment of diseases. Because the skin is the most visible part of the human body, dermatologists are also concerned with cosmetic procedures to maintain and improve the overall appearance of the skin, hair and nails. These include cosmetic injections, liposuction, chemical peels, scar or tattoo removal and many other such treatments.
If you think you may have a skin condition, there are thousands of dermatologists around the country which can help. If you do not know of one, simply type dermatologist and your location into a search engine (i.e., dermatologist NYC, dermatology Atlanta, etc.) to find one near you.
In 2013, a study found that 42.7 percent of patients visited a doctor for a condition of the skin. However, basic skin care techniques can help avoid many of the conditions and diseases which impact the skin, and the best way to maintain healthy skin is to prevent skin damage from occurring in the first place.
While some skin care strategies can be complicated and expensive, a basic skin care routine could be implemented in your life with little effort. The following are some simple practices which can help maintain healthy skin.
- Wash your face with a gentle cleanser twice a day.
- Apply moisturizer immediately after a shower or bath.
- Wear sunscreen (at least 15 SPF) any time you will be in direct sunlight.
- Exfoliate the skin twice a week.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Get adequate sleep nightly.
- Do not use tanning beds.
- Do not smoke.
- Conduct a self-examination of your skin once a month.
- See a dermatologist once a year.