Many people do not realize how important their skin is. It is the largest organ of the body, and it is the first line of defense against disease, bacteria, infections, and other illness. Routine dermatology check-ups can help the patient learn more about how to care for his or her skin. Visiting the dermatologist once a year is a sufficient schedule for most patients. However, if the patient lives in a sunny area or has a family history of skin cancer, it may be beneficial to schedule a check-up twice a year.
It is essential for the patient to see the same medical provider so they can keep an updated map of the moles on a patient’s skin. Regardless of how long a dermatologist has been tracking a patient’s skin, there are warning signs that can indicate a spot may actually be cancer.
Any atypical blemish should be biopsied. The doctor will use a needle or scalpel to remove a tiny piece of the patient’s skin with apparent abnormal growth. The sample will need to be analyzed and tested for several days. If the doctor performs an inadequate biopsy, does not evaluate the test results properly, or fails to biopsy a suspicious site altogether, a misdiagnosis will occur. Failure to diagnose skin cancer can have a dire effect on the patient’s health.
During an infection, the body is attempting to fight off some form of bacterial, viral, parasitic, or chemical irritant. Some types of skin infections can occur after a very bad cut or scrape. If a person is injured in a manner that breaks open the skin barrier, care must be taken to properly clean and bandage the wound. This lowers the risk of infection and can be done at home if the wound is not too serious. Other types of skin infections can be allergic reactions or symptoms of actual skin disorders. These unusual cases are especially difficult to diagnose.
Several types include:
- Carbuncles are boils that form within an infected hair follicle. The infection must be treated quickly. Otherwise, pus pockets of dead skin cells, blood cells, and liquids can form beneath the skin. This allows the infection to spread and will gradually make the patient more ill.
- MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) is also known as “mercer.” This is an infection caused by the staph bacteria that normally safely reside on the surface of human skin. A minor opening in the skin can allow the staph bacteria to enter the body, causing an infection. It is commonly contracted in hospitals, even through basic procedures such as catheter insertion.
- Stevens – Johnson Syndrome is a rare disorder of the skin. It is extremely difficult to find the cause of Stevens – Johnson Syndrome. Many cases go undiagnosed or unresolved. It is occasionally discovered that a patient has developed an allergy to a new medication, and this is the body’s way of alerting the patient to the problem.
All skin infections can lead to hospitalization and should be taken seriously. If a doctor fails to diagnose the infection accurately, or does not sufficiently analyze the affected skin area, a misdiagnosis can be deadly.
While the skin exists to protect the inside of the body, it can provide clues of internal damage as well. Anasarca is a condition where the skin becomes swollen due to excess fluid in the skin’s tissues. There are several causes of anasarca, but it is most commonly a result of kidney disease, liver failure, congestive heart failure, malnutrition, or hookworm infestation. The symptoms include painful swelling and difficultly with urination.
A simple blood test can reveal if the patient is experiencing anasarca. The physician may also elect to run a urinalysis, electrocardiogram, or several x-rays to aid diagnosis. Anascara can sometimes be mistaken for angioedema, which is usually caused by an allergic reaction. With a delayed or inaccurate diagnosis, the patient could face lengthy hospital time or death.
“American Academy of Dermatology Issues Patient Alert: Misdiagnosis of Skin Cancer Can Be Fatal.” PR Newswire 26 Apr. 2000: 6427. Academic OneFile. Web. 24 May 2012.
Deb, S., and N. Walia. “Dermatology referrals in the hospital setting.” Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology 70.5 (2004). Academic OneFile. Web. 24 May 2012.
Vorvick, Linda, ed. “Swelling.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 28/10/2010. Web. 24 May 2012.
Additional Frequently Asked Questions
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