When most people think of "annual checkups," the same few doctors come to mind: a primary care provider, a dentist and, for women, a gynecologist. Often forgotten? The dermatologist, also known as the skin doctor?
Contrary to popular belief, visiting the dermatologist isn't limited to stubborn acne or weird moles. In fact, regular checkups can support your preventative care routine and, ultimately, your future self.
Not convinced? Learn why a dermatologist visit should be on your annual to-do list, plus what to expect at your first appointment.
1. Dermatologists also specialize in hair and nail health.
In reality, the dermatologist is so much more than just a "skin doctor." Dermatologists actually treat the skin, hair and nails, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. This is worth noting, considering all three body parts respond to what's going on internally. Even the subtlest symptoms in these oft-ignored areas can indicate signs of other diseases, which we'll dive into below.
2. A dermatologist can check spots that are hard to see.
Routine skin self-checks are a crucial component of preventive skin care. If you already regularly do these checks, though, is visiting a dermatologist even necessary? Definitely. Not only can a dermatologist inspect your skin with an expert eye, but they can also check areas that are difficult for you to see. This includes spots like your back, buttocks, scalp and behind your ears. Think of it as another layer of prevention in addition to your self-exams.
3. Not all skin cancers start as moles.
In general, many people are aware that strange, irregular and evolving moles warrant a trip to the dermatologist. The only catch? Some skin cancers don't look like moles. For instance, according to the American Cancer Society, symptoms of basal cell carcinoma can range from scar-like lesions to reddish patches. Meanwhile, squamous cell carcinoma might look like warts. That's not to say every mysterious lesion is skin cancer in disguise, but rather to serve as a reminder that routine dermatologist appointments can ensure suspicious abnormalities are spotted before problems begin.
4. Annual visits allow for early diagnoses.
On the off chance you develop a dermatological condition, annual checkups will make all the difference. They'll increase your chances of an early diagnosis, which means you can start treatment or management sooner rather than later. In turn, you can pave the way for the most successful—and cost-effective—outlook.
5. Skin symptoms might indicate an internal illness.
It's easy to assume that skin symptoms indicate the health of, well, your skin. But sometimes, certain symptoms may actually point to a condition inside the body. For example, a stubborn itch could be a sign of thyroid issues or a neurological disorder. Skin discoloration around your neck or groin might indicate prediabetes, while a bluish tint or net-like pattern are both possible signs of heart disease. Curved nails, also known as clubbing, could be related to gastrointestinal issues.
Of course, regular primary care visits can help diagnose underlying conditions. However, since internal issues may manifest through the skin, routine dermatologist visits can double as another preventive health measure.
6. A dermatologist can help prevent cosmetic skin issues.
Whether you're concerned about sagging skin or hyperpigmentation, a dermatologist can offer expert guidance for minimizing future issues. What's more, their suggestions will be personalized for your skin, which can take the guesswork out of choosing treatments and products. This is especially helpful if you're looking to fine-tune your skincare routine but are unsure where to start.
When you're ready to get serious about your skin, your primary care doctor can recommend a dermatologist. Otherwise, check with your insurance provider for in-network dermatologists. Before your first appointment, consider writing down your concerns or any questions, especially if you're feeling nervous. This way, you can get the most out of your visit while taking care of your future self.