Did you know just how varied and complex the field of dermatology is? In consultation with Dr Rachael Teo, Verne Maree highlights just eight of the comprehensive skin services provided by a full fledged dermatology clinic.
#1. Skin checks
Skin cancer screening is a visual examination of the entire skin from top to toe, in search of abnormal looking moles. Being a light-skinned Caucasian puts you at higher risk, as does a family history of skin cancer, says Dr Teo. “We don’t have to excise every spot we see, though. Change in a mole’s appearance is a red flag – any sort of change in size, shape, texture or colour.”
#2. Minor skin surgery
Taking skin biopsies, or removing suspicious moles, skin tags and small cysts, are all quick procedures that can be done under local anaesthesia in The Dermatology Practice’s mini-procedure room – “even during your lunchtime, if you like”. This convenient option saves on both time and money. Bigger procedures can be done in the hospital’s main operating theatre, of course.
#3. Allergy testing
Comprehensive allergy testing is a complex affair, explains Dr Teo. It takes into account your clinical history together with your symptoms – what type of reaction you’re experiencing, for example – in order to decide which allergy tests would be best. Your allergen test results are then correlated with this detailed information.
#4. Atopic eczema
Managing atopic dermatitis in both adults and children is an important part of Dr Teo’s daily practice, she says. The causes of the dry, scaly patches are multifactorial.
“Genetic influences play a big part, as do environmental triggers such as the weather, food allergies, or exposure to irritants such as harsh soaps, sand or prickly grass.
Barrier dysfunction in the skin has been pinpointed as a major underlying cause. Some patients are lacking in the gene for the protein filaggrin, which helps to maintain the skin’s important barrier function. Though there’s no single cure as yet, a lot can be done to lessen the discomfort.
#5. Acne scar treatment
Key to treating acne scars is preventing them, says Dr Teo. That’s because even the best treatment delivers only around 60 percent improvement. “Whenever I give a talk on acne treatment, I emphasise the importance of seeking early treatment to reduce the risk of scarring.”
She uses a combination of modalities, including topical retinoids and fractional CO2 resurfacing laser treatments.
#6. Tattoo removal
Mercifully, tattoos don’t have to be forever. “We use the Medlite C6 pigment laser and the Spectra XT laser to remove them,” explains the dermatologist, “choosing the appropriate wavelength that’s absorbed by the particular pigment colour.”
Don’t expect immediate results, though. Effective removal depends on several things. Black and blue are easier to remove than red, white or yellow. Even a single-colour black tattoo will require six or more sessions, she warns. Other factors include the age of the tattoo and the density of the pigment.
“In general, amateur tattoos tends to be less dense and therefore lighten a bit more quickly; newer ones are easier to remove than older ones.”
Facial pigmentation patches can be due to one or more of many causes, so proper diagnosis is important. Melasma is one of the most common causes. For some, it’s a hormonal issue that emerges during pregnancy, or after taking the pill, and worsens with exposure to UV light.
No race is immune, but Asians tend to be more susceptible. And it’s a chronic condition that needs to be controlled over the long term, says Dr Teo. “Even once treated and cleared, usually with a combination of topical and other treatments, unprotected exposure to the sun will bring those patches right back.”
#8. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
In Singapore, dermatologists are also venereologists who can provide discreet screening and treatment of STIs for both men and women. Apart from HIV, these include genital warts, chlamydia warts, gonorrhoeal infections and more.
Finally, remember that your dermatologist is a good, safe option for high-tech anti-ageing treatments, including Botox and fillers, plus various IPL, laser, ultrasound and radio frequency-based skin-tightening technologies such as Thermage, ultherapy and more.
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