Angie's LIST Guide to

Your skin is the largest organ in your body that’s sensitive and reflects your overall health. A dermatologist specializes in skin, nails, hair and the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and eyelids.


Dr. Peter Winters, an Indianapolis dermatologist, gets ready for a consultation with a patient. Dermatologists see patients for issues related to the skin, nails, hair and other areas.
Dr. Peter Winters, an Indianapolis dermatologist, gets ready for a consultation with a patient. Dermatologists see patients for issues related to the skin, nails, hair and other areas.

The basics of dermatology

Besides diagnosing diseases, dermatologists can biopsy tissue to confirm their diagnoses, reduce the appearance of scars, prescribe medication or treatment and educate patients the proper care of their skin, hair and nails. They may refer patients to a plastic surgeon for certain types of scars, in the case of severe burns. The majority of the procedures are performed in the office as an outpatient procedure, instead of a hospital.

Dermatologists undergo an extensive education program, starting with a college degree and a medical doctorate or doctorate in osteopathy (D.O.) and ending with a one-year internship and at least a three-year residency. In their residency, these specialists learn surgical procedures to remove skin cancer and growths. They also learn to inject fillers, such as Botox, for patients desiring a younger appearance. 

When to see a dermatologist

If you notice any irregularities on your skin, such as a mole that has changed shape, color or size, you should seek medical attention as well. Having your doctor refer you to a dermatologist isn't the end of the world, but it isn't something you should ignore. If you are a fair-skinned, light-eyed person with more than 40 moles, you have a higher risk of developing skin cancer. You can see a skin doctor to help combat wrinkles and age spots. 

Dermatologists perform body checks for skin cancer, and many doctors recommend an annual skin-cancer check. According to, "about 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun." If you have a history of skin cancer in your family, or if you have tanned excessively at any point or have experienced intense sunburns, you should see a skin doctor. Persistent acne or eczema that does not respond to over-the-counter treatments, is another reason to see a plastic surgeon for enhanced treatment. A skin doctor can help with any scars you would like to have removed.

Finding a dermatologist

Ask your general practitioner, family and friends for recommendations, and check the American Academy of Dermatology's list of dermatology. Most insurance companies keep a list of providers who accept their insurance and are in your network. Insurance companies also send out a booklet when you start with their insurance, and an updated list of providers will be located on their website. Once you've narrowed your list of dermatologists, be sure to consult Angie's List for member reviews and ratings.

Ask any prospective doctor about his or her specialty, the average wait time for an appointment and whether the office is open on weekends or evenings. Although you may just begin with a checkup, problems may pop up later that need immediate attention. When choosing your dermatologist, you should consider the distance from your house. You are more likely to make an appointment and follow-up when you are a short distance from the doctor's office.

Bring identification, insurance cards and a list of questions for the doctor. Bring the referral paperwork, if required. Avoid wearing makeup, as it impairs the doctor's ability to examine your skin. Anything you eat or drink can show up in your skin, hair and nails. If you take any prescriptions or nutritional or dietary supplements, bring a list of these with you. Insurance companies have specific guidelines for what services they cover. Check with them before going to the dermatologist's office.

Issues of skin care should be approached as carefully and seriously as any other health concern.


I have such fire red blotches on my legs , circles and patches of dark redness that burns can u help me

I have a scaley round patch on my leg above my outer ankle. It itches almost all the time. I need a dermatologist that'll treat this, as it is driving me crazy.

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