There are numerous issues that you can have with your skin, ranging from minor rashes to more serious issues like skin cancer. You may wonder if you need to see a family physician for your skin problem or a dermatologist. Here are some questions to ask yourself before scheduling an appointment.
Is Your Skin Issue Isolated or a Symptom of Something Else?
If your skin condition presents with other symptoms, it's often best to visit a family physician first to rule out diseases. While your skin problems may bother you the most, keep an eye out for other symptoms. For instance, some people have developed Bullseye rashes—known as erythema migrans (EM)—which they thought were just a cosmetic concern. However, erythema migrans rashes are caused by Lyme disease, which is a serious condition that can cause recurrent fevers, headaches, etc., and it needs to be taken care of with antibiotics.
Are You Bothered by Aesthetics?
Does your skin condition cause you to feel emotionally drained or embarrassed about your appearance? If so, then you should visit a dermatologist. Dermatologists are experts at treating conditions like acne. Acne occurs when sebaceous glands in the skin become clogged. It's best to visit a dermatologist right away before acne gets out of hand. While some people's acne clears up on its own, some people can develop painful cysts that scar and pit the skin, and it's better to get ahead of these problems with strong medications.
If you do have ice-pick scars already, then a dermatologist can use dermabrasion, Botox, collagen fillers, punch excisions, and other treatments to restore your skin. Instead of acne, some people have warts or other minor skin growths. Again, it's best to seek out a dermatologist in these situations, since he or she can use cold therapy to safely remove these skin growths.
Lastly, keep in mind that a family doctor can treat simple cosmetic conditions like cysts, bug bites, or dandruff.
Is Your Skin Condition Sporadic?
You may only get rashes, like eczema, around certain times of day or after certain activities. If this is the case, you likely have an allergy. Your family physician can perform allergy testing or refer you to an immunologist for more extensive testing. Your skin problem may be fixed easily if you stay away from certain soaps, foods, makeup, medications, etc.
Do You Tan a Lot or Have a Lot of Moles/Freckles?
You should seek out a dermatologist if your skin issues are related to crusty red nodules or lumps or brown spots, like moles or freckles. Freckles and moles that are large or have irregular borders or dark/blotchy colors could indicate skin cancer. People with skin cancer can also sometimes develop crusty red nodules that never seem to heal.
Thankfully, skin cancer is very treatable if caught early. Many dermatologists use Mohs surgery to treat cancer. During this surgery, very thin layers of your skin will be removed and examined until only cancer-free cells remain.
Check to see which physician services are offered by your insurance carrier to find either a dermatologist, family doctor, or another specialist.