Ask The Dermatological Medical Assistant

As some of you may know, I work for four dermatologists. I’m a registered Medical Assistant, and a member of the Dermatological Medical Assistants Association. (Betcha didn’t know there was such a thing.) I’ve worked at my job for 3 and a half years, and while I of course don’t know everything about dermatology, I do know some things.

I’m willing to answer derm-related questions, if anyone has any. I won’t give medical advice, but I can answer questions about acne, skin cancers including melanoma, cosmetic issues, etc.

Got any questions for me?

Why do the small warts on my right hand come in groups of three or four? (Since we in the U.K. drive on the left, this hand has had more exposure to sun than the rest of my body).

I’ve already been to the doctor about them and been assured they’re harmless, but didn’ ask him about the grouping.

Warts are caused by a virus that invades the epidermis, the top layer of the skin. I don’t specifically know why they often come in groups, but imperfect skin is often susceptible, so maybe sun damage had something to do with it?

Why does eczema creep around my hands, covering the same area in total but not actually the same part of my hand?

To put it another way, I tend to have about the same total area of eczema-afflicted skin, but the actual afflicted area changes.

I don’t think I know the answer to that one. Eczema is related to allergies and asthma, though- do you expose those parts of your hands to certain materials or substances? Have you been diagnosed with eczema by a dermatologist? I have learned that because the field is so complex, other doctors aren’t trained very well in it, and if a dermatologist hasn’t looked at it, it could actually be any number of things.

I went to a dermatologist for scaly, itchy patches on my ears. He looked at them, and prescribed fluocinolone acetonide cream. He never touched me, and he held his hands against his torso the whole time. A friend of mine told me his follow-ups after having skin cancer cut off his cheek went the same way. His doc never touched him, either.

Are dermatologists a no-touchy lot, or just those two?

Prob just those two, I went to a dermatologist for a rash on my arm once and he had his bare hands all over it.

This thread is far too clinical so far, lets mess it up a bit.

Grossest thing you’ve ever seen?

Two of the derms I work for a germaphobes, and I am becoming more and more of one the longer I work there. You’re so aware of all the viruses, bacteria, molds, yeasts, that it’s hard to touch people. I have to struggle not to flip out when my kid tries to touch me when his hands are dirty. Ew.

The grossest thing I have ever seen was actually when I worked at an internal medicine office, but it was dermatological. This older lady came in with some kind of mutant horrific herpes virus on her face. It was covered with black spots, and inside her mouth and eyes were green strings of mucus. She was having a lot of trouble breathing and couldn’t speak. She just lay there opening and closing her mouth, and the green strings were hanging from her teeth to her tongue. She looked like something out of a horror movie. We called 911 and she was admitted to a hospital- her doctor thought she must have HIV or something really bad since her immune system was obviously impaired. She came in a few weeks later totally healthy and looked like a completely different person.

Okay, I’ll bite. I’ve suffered with kerotosis ever since I was a young girl. I’ve always been uncomfortable with wearing sleeveless shirts or shorts because I’m fair skinned so the bumps are red and very visible. Years ago I saw a dermatologist who prescribed some obnoxious smelling ointment to apply. I never noticed any improvement and soon gave up. From what I’ve read, it generally tends to go away in adults in their mid-30s. I’m 44 years old and still waiting.

It’s my understanding that there isn’t a cure. Have there been any advancements made in the treatment of this condition or perhaps some sort of regimen you’ve found effective in treating it?

The details on this might not be 100% right but, remember the thread you made about the guy at the sports game who appeared to have a dangerous skin conditon? Did you ever ask him about it?

When I was a kid, a dark black mark (we assume it was a mole) appeared on the back of my finger that was about the size of a pinhead. At first my parents thout it was ink from a pen, but the mark stayed for a few years then faded away on its own. Then it came back for a couple more years and faded again. It hasn’t been back in about ten years. Any idea what it could have been?

I have fairly large pores. Pore-reducing tonics don’t produce a noticeable difference. Also (I know that this is gross, but we’ve all read grosser things here) I can squeeze my nose and small amounts of puss come out, but it doesn’t look like I have zits or blackheads under normal observation. Can you recommend anything that will actually reduce pores or at least remove the blackheads, or whatever they are? Thanks!

The pus isn’t coming out of my nose (although I DO have a cold.) I meant out of the skin.

Keratosis pilaris is the full name of those little bumps. There’s no cure for it, although some think it’s caused by dry skin and/or a vitamin A deficiency. I’ve seen my doctors suggest a lotion with lactic acid. They can be bought over the counter, but you may have to ask the pharmacist for it. Also used are other creams or lotions with salicylic acid, tretinoin, or anything else that will exfoliate.

No, I didn’t go to any more football games that year. I will be going to at least one this year, same seats, so hopefully I’ll see that guy again.

The black mark- could have been a wart? They sometimes have very visible capillaries that appear as black spots, and often go away by themselves.

As far as I know, pore size is genetic and nothing can actually be done to reduce them. The stuff that comes out is probably sebum and dirt, which is the same stuff found in blackheads. You can reduce that by using, again, a cream or lotion with salicylic acid or tretinoin or the like.

Perhaps. Can warts be flush with the skin, and have the same texture as the surrounding skin?

Almost. There would be some difference in texture, though, most likely. That’s a hard question to answer- you could have gotten small burns from a chemical, or permanent marker stains, who knows?

Will those beauty creams really make me look half my age, dramatically reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and give me a vibrant glow? :smiley:

Actually, some of them do help. Fine lines can be visibly reduced in some cases. The other day I saw a 70-year-old that’s been using the acne cream Differin for several years, and she looks 50 in the face. My doctors tell patients that you don’t have to go to Clinique or whatever and spend tons of money- the active ingredients are the same no matter how much you spend. One doctor I work for recommends Walgreen’s own brand of alphahydroxy acid. He says that using that a couple times a week for a couple of months is equal to getting an in-office glycolic peel (which we don’t do).