Dermatology is a branch of medicine that deals with diagnosing and treating skin diseases, but covers also nail- and hair-related problems. Specialists in this field are called dermatologists or skin doctors. Dermatologists treat the skin in its widest meaning that includes hair and scalp problems, various (cosmetic) nail problems, and conditions affecting the subcutaneous tissue. In Estonia, after residency training the doctor will become a dermatovererologist (skin and STD doctor), who is competent in both skin diseases and venereal diseases. Below we describe some of the problems with which dermatologists deal in their everyday practice:
Cosmetic skin problems
Acne is a common problem why people decide to consult a dermatologist. Treatment is chosen based on the severity of acne and the charatcteristics and preferences of the patient. Treatment options include different lotions, creams and gels, but also antibiotics, light therapy etc.
Dermatitis and eczema
Dermatitis and eczema are both chronic skin inflammations that tend to become recurrent. They have different causative mechanisms – in dermatitis, the inflammation is caused by environmental factors, but in eczema, bodily factors also play a role. Although eczema and dermatitis are not contagious or dangerous, they substantially influence the quality of life and thus need proper treatment. Diagnosis is usually based on anamnesis and clinical symptoms. If it is suspected that the skin rash and skin inflammation are caused by the contact with a certain substance, then epicutaneous tests, also called patch tests, can be used to diagnose allergic contact dermatitis.
Fungal diseases of the skin and nails are frequent, contagious and annoying conditions. There are two prerequisites to become infected: first, a sufficient amount of fungi on the skin or nails and, second, an environment suitable for growth (humid and warm skin, weakened immune system, microtraumas of the skin, excessive sweating, disturbed blood supply). Most frequently, fungal infections affect the nails (nail fungus), feet (between the toes, on the sole – so-called moccasin type fungal infection), skin folds (including the groin) and scalp. In milder cases local treatment (gels, ointments, creams, lotions) is used, but in more severe disseminated cases systemic (oral) medication is needed.
Warts are benign skin growths caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts are contagious and are spreading through direct contact or towels, touching the same surfaces etc. Warts have many different forms. The most widespread form is called common warts. Warts may go away by themselves, however, a dermatologist can recommend a treatment, too.
Skin tumors can be both benign and malignant. When a skin growth or a mole starts to disturb because of its appearance or practical reasons (e.g. rubs against the collar of the shirt), it is advisable to let it be removed by a dermatologist. The removed tissue is sent for biopsy to check for malignancy. There are three different types of malignant skin tumors: basal cell carcinoma or basalioma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. The first two respond to treatment quite well, but melanoma is aggressive and develops fast. Its timely detection and treatment are therefore crucial. Be alert when a mole (birthmark) has started to change in appearance, grow or bleed and consult a dermatologist as soon as possible.
Dermatologist’s consultation192 clinics
A dermatologist is a specialist qualified to diagnose and treat diseases related to the skin and subcutaneous tissue, but also nails and hair. During the first appointment, the dermatologist typically examines the patient and prescribes necessary tests and analyses. The dermatologist also gives advice about skin disease prevention and plans subsequent treatment.