Medical Dermatology Treatments
Medical dermatology is a branch of medicine that focuses on treating skin ailments. It is different from cosmetic dermatology that improves the appearance of skin, although medical dermatologists can also provide cosmetic treatments.
A medical dermatologist is a doctor who has undergone advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of skin diseases and conditions. These doctors use a variety of special treatments to improve the health of skin.
Types of Medical Dermatology Treatments
Medical dermatologists develop treatment plans according to the patient’s skin condition and individual needs. These treatments may include photodynamic therapy, UVB light therapy, Excimer laser therapy, and skin surgery. Each of these treatments works differently to address various skin problems.
Photodynamic therapy combines light energy with a drug to destroy cancerous and pre-cancerous skin cells. The light activates the drug, known as photosensitizer, which then kills cancer cells.
To perform photodynamic therapy, the medical dermatologist applies the photosensitizer drug to the target area. Over the course of a few hours or days depending on the drug used, the cancer cells absorb the photosensitizer. Next, the patient sits or lies on an examination table, wearing protective gear and clothing but exposing the area of skin to be treated. The doctor then shines a special light that emits blue light that activates the photosensitizer; the light will remain on for just over 16 minutes.
Doctors perform photodynamic therapy at outpatient clinics, so it does not require an overnight stay in a hospital. The treatment sometimes causes a stinging, prickling, or burning sensation, similar to sunburn. The sensations usually go away immediately after treatment, but they may take up to 2 days to go away completely.
UVB Light Therapy
UVB Light Therapy treats psoriasis, a condition in which skin cells multiply up to 10 times faster than normal; the buildup of skin cells causes scales and itchy, dry patches to form. This type of therapy exposes skin to ultraviolet light B (UVB), which penetrates the skin to slow the growth of treated skin cells. Treatments involve exposing the skin to UVB for a set length of time on a regular basis. While UVB light therapy does not cure the underlying cause of psoriasis, it can help manage symptoms and help prolong remission, which is a period when the symptoms disappear temporarily.
There are two main types of UVB treatment: narrowband and broadband, sometimes referred to as narrow band and broadband. Narrowband UVB treatments release a smaller range of UVB light than does broadband. Narrowband may clear psoriasis faster, produce longer remissions, and require fewer treatments per week.
Dermatologists can use full body units to treat large areas, handheld units to treat hard-to-reach areas, or small units to treat localized areas, such as hands and feet. Some UVB units use traditional UVB bulbs while others use LED bulbs.
Excimer Laser Therapy
Excimer Laser Therapy treats a variety of difficult-to-treat skin diseases, such as psoriasis, vitiligo, and atopic dermatitis. This phototherapy laser treatment is gentle and painless, and does not require any post-treatment downtime. It also uses advanced technology that targets only the affected area and spares surrounding healthy tissue from exposure.
Excimer laser therapy is fast, but requires repeat treatments. Patients typically undergo Excimer laser therapy two to three times a week for a treatment, which usually takes only 5 to 10 minutes each, for about 6 weeks. Results are usually visible after just a few sessions. Patients may enjoy long-lasting, treatment-free remissions for months; most appreciate being free from the burden of other daily treatments, such as topical steroids.
Skin surgery is often the most effective procedure for many skin cancers, growths and other skin conditions. Dermatologists often perform skin surgery in the office as an outpatient procedure, so patients do not have to stay overnight in a hospital.
Types of skin surgery can include:
- Skin biopsy – a procedure in which a dermatologist takes a small sample of skin tissue to send to a medical laboratory for evaluation
- Electrosurgery – uses electricity to destroy abnormal skin growths or to stop bleeding
- Curettage and cautery – a type of electrosurgery in which a dermatologist scrapes off abnormal skin tissue then applies heat to the skin surface; effective for removing skin tissue that is softer than skin
- Wound closure – a procedure to close wounds
- Skin grafting – a procedure in which the dermatologist removes healthy skin tissue from one area and applies it to an area where skin is missing due to cancer, burn, or other trauma
- Flaps – is similar to skin grafting because it uses healthy skin to replace lost skin; flaps are different in that the dermatologist creates a flap with skin, so the flap has all its own blood vessels
- Mohs microscopically controlled excision – a precise surgical technique that allows dermatologists to remove difficult skin cancers while sparing nearby skin
- Cryotherapy – a procedure in which the dermatologist uses liquid nitrogen to bring an area of skin to freezing or near-freezing temperatures to remove skin tags, cancer and other areas of abnormal growths in the skin
Medical dermatologists may perform other procedures to improve the health and appearance of skin. For more information, give us a call at 503-297-3440 or simply schedule an appointment online today.