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Why dermatology is good for your health, not just your looks

After over two decades working with patients as a nurse, Brandie Oldham knows that what you see in the mirror is just the surface of skincare.

"A lot of things happen on the skin and are an indicator of something that's going on inside," explained Oldham, who is now a nurse at Sona Dermatology in Raleigh. "What happens inside and outside your body go together."

For example, that rash you believe is from a dirty makeup brush could be a sign of an autoimmune disorder or pre-diabetes; and your arthritis could be causing problems with your skin, such as bruising and lesions.

Working with a board-certified dermatologist to address these issues can often be the only way to control them. And when the issue is something as vital as your skin, you do not want to play a guessing game with treatments.

REASONS TO SEE A DERMATOLOGIST

One of out of three Americans suffer from a skin disease, and skin cancer is the number one cancer diagnosed in adults in the United States.

Suspicious moles, lesions or changes in your skin are immediate reasons to see a board-certified dermatologist as these could be potentially dangerous or cancerous. However, everyone should schedule an annual appointment with a dermatologist, potential suspicions aside.

These yearly skin checks are vital in early detection and for maintaining the overall health of your skin. Dermatologists can diagnose melanoma (skin cancer) and help patients gain control of any issues with problematic skin, hair and nail conditions.

"Your skin is exposed all the time, some way or another. It's your largest organ; it's what protects your insides," Oldham explained. "You have to make sure everything on your skin is healthy and nothing looks abnormal."

Dermatologists know exactly what to look for, and during your annual exam, they will check everything from your scalp to your toes to look for any abnormal moles or other skin conditions. (Photo Courtesy of Sona Dermatology & MedSpa.)

Dr. Carol Trakimas, a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Sona Dermatology, further explained the top reasons to see a dermatologist.

"The number one reason to make an appointment to see a dermatologist is a suspicious mole. If a mole has developed changes like: asymmetry, irregular borders, changes in colors or its diameter/size and has evolved acutely into another shape, please see a dermatologist," said Trakimas, when explaining the "A, B, C, D, E's of the changes in a mole."

These guidelines could be indicative of a potential skin cancer or atypical mole.

Dermatologists know exactly what to look for, and during your annual exam, they will check everything from your scalp to your toes to look for any abnormal moles or other skin conditions. If they find anything, they should explain to you what they've found – whether it be a harmless issue such as skin tags or keratosis, or something that may need a biopsy.

Trakimas also noted that if you notice an unusual rash that is accompanied by a fever or other symptoms like joint pain, hair loss, nail changes or muscle aches, you should visit a dermatologist. These are signs of an internal problem manifesting on your skin.

Worsening acne, eczema and psoriasis are also reasons to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. These visits can help prevent further scarring, discomfort or infection, and treating these daily skin issues can greatly improve your quality of life.

Additionally, specialists can address problems you're experiencing with your hair or nails, such as balding, conditions affecting your scalp (dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis), unwanted hair in various body parts, fingernail and toenail fungus, changes in the coloration of the nail plates, and splitting, infections, or pitting of the nails.

PREVENTION AND WAYS YOU CAN PROTECT YOUR SKIN

Education and proactive skin care are essential to preventing issues down the road.

The simplest way you can protect your skin is to use sunscreen every day of the year – not just when you're on vacation or on sunny days. Sunscreen shields your skin against harmful UV rays and can protect against melanoma.

Learning your family history of skin cancer and monitoring your own skin is also a helpful prevention method.

During your annual check-up, have your doctor explain to you what's normal and what's not so that you can keep an eye out for early detection and understand what's going on both on and inside your body.

Understand what to look for, check your spouse and have them check you. If you notice a scary mole on your friend's back, let them know – it could save their life. Be especially observant when pregnant, as hormones during pregnancy can cause changes in moles or start new growths. If you notice any changes, get them checked by your dermatologist immediately.

Healthy habits such as being a non-smoker, staying hydrated, and eating a healthy diet also promote skin health and will leave your skin looking younger, longer.

People often think of dermatologists as resources for teenagers struggling with acne or a person with a suspicious mole, but everyone can benefit from a board-certified dermatologist's expertise and routine checks. Call us today to schedule yours!

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