Our skin is home to billions of microorganisms, the vast majority of which are bacteria. Much like the microbiome in our gut, these microbes play a crucial part in keeping us healthy. They are part of a finely balanced ecosystem of friendly or ‘commensal’ bacteria, which protect our skin by creating an inhospitable environment for would-be invaders, bolstering the physical integrity of the skin, and training the immune system to distinguish commensal inhabitants from pathogens. A number of skin conditions are now understood to be influenced by a breakdown of this microbial ecosystem. Researchers are working out whether restoring the balance can treat these conditions. Understanding the ecology of this rich community is likely to be an important part of both dermatology and the study of the microbiome. Read more in https://www.nature.com/collections/sk…
ACNE is almost a rite of passage in adolescents, although it is not totally restricted to the teen years; women may experience acne during pregnancy, or at the time of menopause. It afflicts about 90% of kids during their PUBERTAL growth spurt, though is moderate or severe in only 15%.
Acne is caused by PLUGGING of the sebaceous glands of the skin. Infection by certain skin BACTERIA follows. Check the accompanying video for a description of the battle between the “Good guys”, Staph epidermidis and Cutibacterium acnes, vs. the bad guy, Proprionibactrium
Acne tends to run in families. The steroid HORMONES like Testosterone and Cortisone promote Acne. STRESS tends to chronically raise Cortisol and is a factor in Acne, and many chronic illnesses as well.
A person who is having trouble with Acne should avoid sweets and greasy foods, which is a good idea for everybody. Skin cleansers, using salicylic or azelaic acids and benzoyl peroxide may help, and creams containing retinoic acid derivatives may be useful..
The doctor may prescribe an antibiotic like tetracycline in resistant cases. Cystic acne may be scarring, but otherwise “the zits” depart with the pubertal years.
The skin is the protective barrier between the inside of our bodies and the outside world of microorganisms, parasites and toxins. It is often the site of inflammation and infections.
In past times, before the advent of cleanliness and antibiotics, mankind was plagued by erysipelas, boils, carbuncles, and other severe infections of the skin, which are rarely seen now. The beta hemolytic streptococcus and Staphylococcus aureus were ubiquitous in the past, and mostly are contained today.
Severe Infections presently require some skin abnormality, immune deficiency, neglect, animal bite or other breach of skin integrity to be a problem. Antibiotic resistance, however, is allowing some organisms like MERSA to make a comeback.
ECZEMA. or Atopic Dermatitis, was common in my medical practice. This condition weakens the skin barrier, allowing Staphylococcal infection to gain a foothold. In my day, If there were a flare of eczema severity, antibiotics would often help. Leg edema and swelling. such as from heart failure, especially coupled with diabetes and blood vessel disease is also an invitation to infection, such as cellulitis.
Redness, swelling, warmth and pain- the classic rubor, tumor, calor and dolor- as well as swollen local lymph nodes and fever often betray infection of the skin. Please see the recently posted infographic on celulitis.
IMMUNE DEFICIENCY raises the likelihood and risk of severe skin infections. Infection from “flesh-eating bacteria”, often beta hemolytic streptococci in deep tissue planes , is a medical emergency. Immediate surgery is often needed.
Disproportionate PAIN after injury or surgery is often a clue. Certain age groups have characteristic skin infections, such as the scalded skin syndrome of infants, and the acne of adolescents. Viruses, molds, and arthropods can also infect the skin.
Viruses, such as herpes in particular can simulate bacterial infection. Ringworm from fungi is easy to distinguish, but arthropod bites, and especially bee sting can look very much like bacterial infection. Scabies and mite infestation are so itchy as to be distinct.
Topical antibiotics applied on skin breaks like cuts or breaks are useful in preventing infection. These ointments and creams are like “artificial skin”. Once again, prevention is key.
THERMOREGULATION, preservation of the normal body temperature, is well developed in humans, and monitoring the body temperature has been useful since the development of thermometers.
Indirect measurement by Infrared detectors is being widely used today to detect FEVER as a sign of Covid in gatherings such as schools. Reactive increase of body temperature in a cool environment is a body defense mechanism that I have discussed earlier. Contrary to general practice, Fever, in my opinion, should be left untreated unless excessive, such as above 103 degrees F., or even 104 degrees.
Excessive environmental temperature, such as in a closed car, Jacuzzi, or heat wave can defeat the body’s ability to defend the normal temperature. Children, with their high body surface to mass ratio, are particularly at risk, as periodic newspaper articles testify. HEAT STROKE is the most serious of heat-related illnesses, leading to high and increasing body temperature, mental symptoms, even convulsions, and is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY.
The treatment is to call 911, and to lower the body temperature by removing insulating clothing, and immersing in cold water. There are a variety of other conditions based on excessive exertion, water or salt loss.
These include HEAT EXHAUSTION. Older Workers are particularly susceptible, and medical clinic attention may be needed for fluid and electrolyte replacement. MUSCLE CRAMPS and even damage( Rhabdomyolysis), FAINTING (this has been discussed before) and Heat Rash can result from too hot an environment. Furry Animals Pant instinctively to get their highly vascular Tongue to “air condition” their bodies. Humans should dress and exercise appropriately when the environment requires it.
Red hair and freckles are associated with MCR-1 gene variants, and large areas of skin with lowered melanin protection against the adverse effects of the sun. I have red hair and freckles, for which I was teased. My response was that I had a lot of Iron in my blood, and that the freckles were Rust. This is ironic (no pun intended).
Since becoming an Octogenarian, I have had trouble keeping my Iron levels normal. I live in a beach area, where all the young ladies are sunning themselves to promote the socially desirable “bronze goddess” effect, and all of the older ladies hide their leathery skin and wear broad-brimmed hats.
The sun has a good reputation as a health-giver. Being outside does correlate with a lot of beneficial effects, such as enhancing production of Vitamin D. My recommendation, however biased, is to get your Vitamin D in capsule form, and reduce sun exposure.
SUNSHINE, however salutary, is accompanied by invisible, high energy photons capable of breaking DNA strands, and ultimately causing SKIN CANCER. Not accidentally,Visible light has insufficient energy to break bonds, although the rhodopsin in rods and cones do release electrons if stimulated by light.
Actinic Keratoses are the roughened plaques of skin, often on the face, which have a small but definite risk of turning into Cancer. I have a dermatology check every 6 months for precancerous areas to be frozen and destroyed by CO2 spray.
PREVENTION of UV Skin damage is advisable. I wear a broad brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses (UV can promote cataracts and retinal damage as well) when outside in the sun. When swimming I wear a “rashguard” shirt with UV protection in the fabric.
Also, I try to limit my exposure to the Evening and Morning sun, because the light is warmer, and contains less UV. Even with these precautions, I use Sunscreen creams and lotions. I always wondered how a transparent lotion can block UV light.
The explanation lies in the chemicals contained. Such chemicals as Avobenzone and Homosalicylate actually absorb the energy of UV light. Protect yourself now for later health.
From AMA.org (June 12, 2020):
“There’s an aging population, and there’s a lot of skin out there,” said Dr. Isaacs. “One in five people in the country develop skin cancer, but there is a plethora of benign skin conditions that also require the expertise of the dermatologist. So, you have increasing demand and a limited supply of dermatologists.”
A basic example of how the TPMG teledermatology program works involves a patient who is concerned about a suspicious lesion or mole on their body. The patient can take a picture of the location in question and send it to their primary care physician for review. The physician can request the patient come in for a more thorough evaluation, or if the physician determines that a dermatologist should be involved, they can send the photo to an on-call dermatologist to review.
If the patient does an in-person evaluation, the physician can also take a higher-quality image and forward that to a dermatologist. The dermatologist can then decide whether there is a problem, if a prescription is needed, or if there should be an in-person evaluation and potential biopsy.
A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2019 found that when TPMG dermatologists had the chance to look at well-photographed skin lesions, they were able to identify nearly 10% more cancers with almost 40% fewer referrals to the dermatology department.
A high quality I-phone picture of a skin lesion can provide the dermatologist with 90% of the information needed for a diagnosis.
Melanoma diagnosis depends even more on the visual. In fact, Artificial Intelligence evaluation of Melanoma may be overtaking dermatologist expertise.
Size can be indicated by including a dime in the photo.
It is true that the roughness, softness or hardness may be important in diagnosis, but perhaps these characteristics could be described by the Patient.
This week, I started worrying about an itchy, rapidly growing lesion on my back. I sent a picture of this to my dermatologist, hoping he would call it a wart and reassure me. It was very regular, soft, and had a rough surface like warts I have had in the past.
However, he saw some redness and had me come in for removal. We will see what the pathology shows.
Dermatologists are in short supply, and making more efficient use of their expertise attractive.
Calling the Doctor’s office, arranging for e-mail Photo transmission, and a talk with the Doctor on the phone could save a visit. The Primary Doctor could send you directly to the dermatologist, or might be comfortable with watching and waiting.
Dermatology is indeed a field ripe for Telemedicine.
TELEMEDICINE is here to stay! With all its’ advantages Patients will demand It!
This video is one of the few to highlight WOMENS’ HEALTH as an appropriate field for Telehealth. A remote visit first may at least let the Doctor order some tests that will accelerate your care.
Urinary problems can also be appropriate for telemedicine; the MEDICAL HISTORY is such a VALUABLE DIAGNOSTIC TOOL!
Psychological and Psychiatric care could be completely remote, by telemedicine. The Doctor could save on expenses, and deliver care less expensively.
Distance disappears as a barrier to Consultations and second opinions. A University medical center or prestigious multi specialty Clinic are on your doorstep.
Of course, barriers remain in the form of regulations, litigation, bureaucracy, and Insurance, but these can be overcome, if the Will is there.
As I have aged, my skin has been more itchy. My allergy practice was loaded with Patients whose ECZEMA and HIVES itched. My favorite uncle developed intolerable itching (pruritis) in his 90’s, and died within a year of metastatic Prostate Cancer.
This gives you an idea of the Range of this annoying sensation. My emphasis here will be on CHRONIC ITCHING with DRY SKIN in otherwise HEALTHY PEOPLE without much rash or other skin condition. If you want extra discussion, look at Reference #1. If you are a Doctor, or a brute for punishment, see Ref.#2, a CME review.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and deserves respect right from birth. The skin of your child is wonderfly healthy in looks and self repair. EXCESSIVE SUN EXPOSURE is about the only thing you need to protect her from, and the only penalty is increased cancer risk in later life.
As your body ages, your skin looses some of its essential oils, and and becomes more dry (at least you don’t get acne any more). You become more sensitive to dry air, like in the winter, when the cold outside air (adiabatically) drops in relative humidity when warmed to inside temperature.
Do you notice the increase in static electricity shocks in the winter? If not, I’m sure that you do notice that your skin itches more. one treatment for the “winter itch” is to humidify the inside air. If you have a draughty old house like I do, it may be more convenient to use MOISTURIZING LOTIONS.
These were once mainstays of itch control in my former practice (before development of the effective modern medications). Eucerin and Cetaphil were very helpful. Maybe it is because of the name, but I now find myself using Curel “Itch Defense” all over my body twice daily,.
The itching is much less now, except for my EARS. My ear canals (they are skin too!) have recently been very dry and itchy, maybe because i listen to podcasts when walking or swimming.
Unwilling to give up my podcasts, I put some UNSCENTED Johnson’s baby oil with my little finger into my ear canals, as suggested by my ENT Doctor (I wanted to be sure i didn’t have a diagnosable condition like a fungal infection). If I have a small spot that itches a lot, I use some 1% Hydrocortisone cream, and I feel better.
Antihistamines don’t do much for me, but are effective if the itching is a real allergy (most of what people call allergy is not the IGE-MEDIATED, “real” variety). HISTAMINE is the quintessential provocateur of ITCH. Cetirizine (or atarax) is the strongest of available antihistamines, and diphenhydramine (benadryl) the old standby.
Chronic itching can be caused by a plethora of illnesses, as you will find if you choose to read the following papers.
– Dr. C
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “The technology has reached a point where, in many situations, health care providers can use IT to offer quality health care services remotely,” and they support telemedicine as an additional treatment tool to supplement in-person services.
To get the most from your telemedicine appointment, board-certified dermatologists offer these tips:
- Contact your insurance provider to find out if your plan covers telemedicine appointments. Many insurance providers are updating their plans to cover telemedicine visits during the coronavirus pandemic. Find out what type of telemedicine visits are covered by your insurance.
- Gather essential information. This is especially important if you have a telemedicine appointment with a dermatologist you haven’t seen before. Knowing your medical history will help your dermatologist make a diagnosis, decide treatment options, and prescribe medicine, if necessary. Ask your dermatologist’s office if they have any forms you need to fill out before your appointment.Before your appointment, make a list of the following:
- Medications you take
- Major illnesses or surgeries you have had
- Previous skin problems
- When your current symptoms began
- Your allergies
- Illnesses that your family members have had, such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes
- Find out how to reach your dermatologist. Talk to your dermatologist’s office to make sure you know what type of telemedicine appointment you will have, and how your dermatologist will reach out to you. Ask when and how to send the pictures and information you gather.
- For video visits, you will be sent a website link you can use to connect with your dermatologist at the time of your appointment.
- For telephone visits, you may be given instructions on when to expect a call from your dermatologist.
- Write down all your questions. Doing this helps you remember everything you plan to talk to your dermatologist about and make the most of your appointment.
- Take pictures. To help your dermatologist examine your concern, take clear pictures of the areas you need examined. Follow these tips to make sure the pictures are the highest-possible quality:
- Make sure your pictures are well-lit. Take your pictures in natural light, if possible. Use another light source, like a book light or flashlight, if needed. Make sure that there aren’t any shadows or glares on the area you are taking pictures of.
- Take multiple pictures, including one of each side of the area you need examined. Make sure to show the entire area around your spot or rash. If your spot is hard to see, you may want circle it or draw an arrow pointing toward it with a marker.
- Take pictures to compare. For example, if you have a spot on your hand, take pictures of both hands so your dermatologist can see how that area usually looks. Make sure you also take a close-up and a far-away picture of the areas you are concerned about so your dermatologist can compare.
- Just like an in-person dermatologist appointment, do not wear makeup. If you need your nails examined, take off any nail polish you have on before taking any pictures.
- Get help. If you live with someone, ask them to take pictures of hard-to-reach areas, such as your back. If you live alone, use a mirror to make sure you are taking pictures of the right spot.
- If your picture turns out blurry, delete it and replace it with one that is clearer.
- Avoid irritating your skin before your appointment. Try to avoid doing things that could change the appearance of your skin before you begin your telemedicine appointment or take your pictures. Some examples of things to avoid are taking a hot shower, rubbing or picking at your skin, or applying skin care products.
- Find a private space. Find a quiet and private space without distractions to have your appointment. Make sure you can connect to the internet in that space and it has the best-possible lighting.