At an average of 8 pounds and 22 square feet, your skin is the largest organ in your body. You probably don’t think of your skin as a waterproof covering, but it is. Skin guards our bodies against extreme temperatures, sunlight and even some chemicals. No wonder the skin is an extremely important organ, which emphasizes the importance of taking care of it.
The sun’s ultraviolet light penetrates the skin’s outermost layer and makes it susceptible to skin cancer. It’s impossible to completely shield yourself from the sun, though broad-spectrum sunscreens and protective clothing help. Protection from the sun’s rays is crucial, but even more so is a skin exam by a board-certified dermatologist. Here is what you can expect from an annual skin exam.
What is a Skin Exam?
A skin exam involves a complete whole body exam, from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet, even areas that aren’t normally exposed to the sun. Your doctor is searching for skin damage and abnormal signs that might have been overlooked by your untrained eye. Expect your doctor to examine unlikely places like the bottoms of your feet, your eyelids, ears, lips, toenails etc. The exam is very thorough.
You will be asked to undress for the examination, which of course isn’t unusual for a doctor’s visit. You will be provided a gown for modesty.
Prior to the physical skin exam, the medical provider will take your health history. You will be asked about abnormalities that you may have detected, discoloration of the skin, acne that doesn’t go away with time and treatment, new moles or moles that change in appearance. (Remember your mole ABCDE – that’s asymmetry (when one half of the mole doesn’t mirror image the other), border irregularity or a lack of defined borders altogether, color that is not uniform, diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser), and any evolutions of change of any of the above.) Take note of these areas on your body before arriving at the doctor’s office and be prepared to discuss what you’ve noticed.
You will also be asked about the number of times you’ve been overexposed to the sun, how many times you’ve been burned and to what extent and how long ago the damage occurred. Be truthful. The more you reveal of your sunburn or even sunbed tanning history, the better your doctor will be able to diagnose your skin’s condition.
Warts and Rashes
The medical provider will look for any warts, rashes, skin tags, etc. For items like warts, he may “freeze” them off with liquid nitrogen or prescribe over-the-counter medications. Rashes or itchy can be caused by fungal infections and allergies or may be diagnosed as eczema psoriasis. He may give you a referral to an allergist or nutritionist, depending on his determination of what the causes might be for any unusual skin activity. If a suspicious spot is located on the skin, the doctor will order a biopsy of the area. The sample is sent to a lab for further analysis and the patient can expect results within a week to ten days.
A skin exam is thorough, but it’s painless and doesn’t take very much time. The entire skin exam will take less than thirty minutes to complete, though a first-time visit may take a tiny bit longer. If a follow-up appointment is required, you will make it then. He will also provide you with any prescriptions and often, samples of over-the-counter products he will recommend you give a try. Most importantly, he will advise you of what to look for and how to protect what is the largest, but perhaps the most neglected, organ in your body.
A yearly skin exam is crucial to your good health and it definitely shouldn’t be neglected. If you have a history of skin cancer, you may need to be seen more often. See your dermatologist when you’ve detected skin changes that are concerning to you, but also make a regular appointment, too. It is the best defense against skin cancer and for early detection.
Vanguard Skin Specialists is Southern Colorado’s premiere dermatology and plastic surgery practice. Our team of providers is dedicated to exceeding your expectations at every visit. Our board-certified dermatologists, Mohs surgeons, dermatopathologist, plastic surgeon, facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants all work together to provide you with superior care with outstanding results. Learn to love the skin you’re in by calling Vanguard Skin Specialists at (719) 355-1585 to schedule an appointment in our Briargate, Pueblo, Broadmoor or Woodland Park offices.