What does a dermatologist do? If you asked the average person that question, most would say they provide cosmetic services.
Some dermatologists do focus on your appearance, but in reality, they’re essential medical specialists. The skin is your body’s largest organ and is responsible for protecting you from illness and injury. Treating skin conditions is about more than looking good—it’s about keeping your body’s first line of defense healthy and functional.
There are countless reasons to see a dermatologist, some of which are more urgent than others. To find out if you need to make an appointment sooner rather than later, keep reading for eight skin symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.
1. You Can’t Stop Scratching
Does your scalp or skin itch constantly, even after you apply lotion? It’s easy to chalk up the urge to scratch to drier weather, but there could be another reason lurking beneath the surface.
Red, scaly, flaky, or constantly itchy skin can be a sign of conditions like contact dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis. If this discomfort is persistent or starts to interfere with your life, make an appointment as soon as possible.
2. Your Acne Worsens or Won’t Go Away
Acne is one of the most common skin conditions among people of all ages. It’s normal to get a few bumps or spots here and there, and most people can manage their acne with over-the-counter treatments like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
However, there are a few reasons that you may need to see a dermatologist for your acne, including:
- You suddenly get moderate to severe acne despite never having it before
- You can’t control your breakouts with OTC treatments
- You always or almost always have blemishes
- Your acne is deep, cystic, or painful
- You’re starting to get scars from your acne
In some cases, your breakouts could be due to nothing more than genetics or a change in your skincare routine. Other times, it could be something more serious like a food allergy or hormonal imbalance. Whatever the cause, your dermatologist can help you clear your skin and minimize long-term scarring.
3. Constant Redness
All of us blush when we’re embarrassed or in love, but your skin should return to its normal shade after the emotion passes. Constant redness, especially if it’s also sensitive or painful, could be a sign of rosacea. A dermatologist can help you identify the cause behind your skin redness and help you prevent future flare-ups.
4. Excess Sweating
It’s normal to drip sweat in the hot summer sun or after a hard workout. It’s not normal to sweat while sitting still in a cold room to the extent that it interferes with your life.
If you’re constantly dealing with excess sweating on your face, scalp, underarms, hands, and feet, you might have a condition called hyperhidrosis. A dermatologist can help you by treating the overactive sweat glands with topical medication or injections.
5. Your Hair Is Falling Out
Have you noticed an increase in the amount of hair that comes out when you comb it, brush it, or take a shower? Are you finding clumps on your pillow when you wake up or spots of obvious thinning? These are all signs that it’s time to book a derm appointment.
Sudden or excess hair loss can come from several conditions, including:
- Extreme stress
- Hormonal imbalances
- Reactions to medications
- Telogen effluvium
The reason you’re losing hair could be as simple as getting older or overdoing it on the hair dye, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
6. Your Nails Don’t Look Right
Dermatologists aren’t only concerned with your skin—they also pay close attention to your fingernails and toenails.
Most people experience occasional brittle or discolored nails. It’s time to see a doctor, though, if they thicken, change shape, or start lifting off the nail bed. These can be symptoms of a bacterial or fungal infection, a poorly-healed injury, or psoriasis.
7. Severe or Frequent Sunburns
People tend to ignore sunburns and consider them a normal part of the summer experience. In reality, sunburns can do a lot of permanent damage to your skin, especially if they’re severe or frequent.
You should see a dermatologist for sunburn if:
- Your skin peels or flakes off
- You get blisters or your skin leaks fluid
- You have very fair skin
- You have a history of getting sunburnt once or more per year
- You notice sun spots or moles beginning to appear
Having a dermatologist examine your skin after getting sunburnt can help you prevent permanent damage. People over age 50 with fair skin who have been burned in the past also need to get regular screenings for skin cancer.
8. You Have an Irregular Mole
Finding a large or irregular mole on your skin, especially if it’s new and grew quickly, is one of the most urgent reasons to see a dermatologist. This is often the first sign of skin cancer. Most types of skin cancer are treatable, but if you don’t get them taken care of early, they can metastasize to other parts of your body and become fatal.
If you notice a mole or skin lesion with any of these characteristics, book a dermatology appointment immediately:
- Irregular or asymmetrical borders
- “Blurry” edges
- Color variation
- Larger than a pencil eraser
- Pain, redness, or swelling
- Bleeding and/or crusting over
- Changes in color and size
The cost to visit a dermatologist early on is far lower than the cost of cancer treatment if it’s allowed to spread, so don’t put off making an appointment.
Do You Need to See a Dermatologist?
If you have any of the signs and symptoms on this list, you need to see a dermatologist as soon as possible. The earlier you can diagnose and treat a skin condition, the more likely you are to avoid serious consequences down the line.
Are you still looking for ways to take care of your body this year? Make sure to check out the other articles on our site for more health and wellness advice.
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