What is Dermatology?

Mary McMahon

Dermatology is a branch of medicine which focuses on conditions of the skin, along with sweat glands, hair, and other related body parts. There are numerous branches of dermatology, from cosmetic dermatology which focuses on elective procedures to immunodermatology, the study of conditions of the skin caused by immune system problems. People may receive referrals to a specialist in dermatology for skin problems which clearly require the attention of someone with special training; many people visit a dermatologist at some point in their lives for things ranging from dry skin to pre-cancerous moles.

Dermatology includes the treatment of acne breakouts.
Dermatology includes the treatment of acne breakouts.

In order to become a dermatologist, someone must first attend four years of medical school to receive a general education in the basics of anatomy, physiology, and the practice of medicine. After medical school, the would-be skin care doctor attends a medical residency which focuses specifically on the practice of dermatology. He or she may elect to attend an additional residency in a sub specialty of dermatology such as pediatric dermatology.

Raised skin mole.
Raised skin mole.

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The skin is a very important body organ, and a wide range of conditions can involve the health of the skin; people who study dermatology are actually widely trained in a number of medical fields. A dermatologist can examine problem areas of skin to determine what is causing the problem, and recommend an appropriate course of action. For a condition like dry skin, this might involve medication, dietary changes, or the use of creams and oils to condition the skin. For something such as suspicious looking moles, the dermatologist might take a biopsy to find out whether or not the mole is malignant, and he or she may remove the mole if it proves to be cancerous.

Flat skin mole.
Flat skin mole.

Since the skin is such a visible body part, practices in cosmetic dermatology can be very profitable, because many people seek medical attention to change their physical appearance in an attempt to meet beauty standards. A cosmetic dermatologist may perform everything from liposuction to Botox® procedures with the intent of creating a desired look. In people with conditions which cause severe disfigurement, such as port wine stains, a cosmetic dermatologist can also make a radical difference by normalizing the patient's appearance and freedom of movement, allowing the patient to live a normal life.

The skin is the body's first line of defense. It is important to take good care of your skin, and to keep track of changes in the appearance and texture of your skin which might signify problematic conditions like cancer. You should go to a dermatologist if you notice radical changes in your skin, or if you want to seek treatment for things like painful burn scars, irritatingly dry skin, or spider veins, among many other conditions.

Skin conditions are the primary focus of dermatology.
Skin conditions are the primary focus of dermatology.

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what is the minimum education required for this job? Maximum?

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