Pediatric dermatologists diagnose and treat many skin conditions that begin in childhood or are unique to the pediatric age group. Skin problems in children, whether minor or life-altering, can affect many aspects of their lives, including their development and self-esteem. We are specially trained to understand how to communicate with children to make them feel as comfortable as possible when treating their skin problems and to make them feel as confident as possible about how their skin conditions affect their daily lives.
Some examples of diseases that we commonly evaluate and treat are:
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, runs in families with seasonal allergies and asthma. It is characterized by very itchy, dry, red, scaly skin. Eczema can be mild or severe and depending on the degree, may have significant effects on a child's lifestyle and self-esteem. Not only does the condition affect the child, it may affect the whole family. A good skin care regimen is very helpful in minimizing the effects of the disease. It is especially important for children with moderate to severe eczema to be followed regularly by a dermatologist, because other complications can arise, such as bacterial and viral infections of the skin.
Warts are a common viral infection of the skin. Although they are not dangerous, they can be unsightly and uncomfortable. We use various methods to remove them, ranging from over-the-counter recommendations to blistering agents to liquid nitrogen cryotherapy (freezing) and electrosurgery (burning). Some methods are more appropriate than others in different age groups of children, and pediatric dermatologists have a sense of what would be the best for each individual child.
Molluscum contagiosum is another common viral infection of the skin that is similar to warts. Instead of a warty appearance, the lesions are smooth and shiny and are usually small. Like warts, they are not harmful, but can continue to spread if left untreated. They can be treated with a blistering agent, curettage (scraping with a small round instrument) or cryotherapy (freezing). Again, pediatric dermatologists are experienced with the appropriate use of all of these methods in different age groups.
Diaper rash is usually an easily treatable problem, but some cases are resistant to traditional therapy. These are the cases in which a pediatric dermatologist can be very helpful. Different types of diaper rash can require different types of treatments, and sometimes more serious diseases can masquerade as diaper rash, so an evaluation by a pediatric dermatologist can be very important.
Birthmarks are not necessarily present at birth. Some can appear in the first few weeks of life and some in the first few years. Some birthmarks can have associated problems. Examples of common birthmarks are hemangiomas and port-wine stains, which are made up of blood vessels, and congenital moles, which can be very small or very large. It is important that birthmarks be evaluated in the newborn period when present because early intervention can be important. Sometimes watchful waiting is the answer.
Skin infections that pediatric dermatologists commonly treat include impetigo, which is a bacterial infection of the skin, and tinea capitis, or "ringworm" of the scalp, which is a fungal infection. Impetigo can be treated with either topical or oral antibiotics, depending on the severity. Tinea capitis must be treated with an oral antifungal. Scabies is a mite infestation that can cause an extremely itchy rash and is very contagious. This can be treated safely even in very young infants with a prescription cream.
Acne, of course, can be a major problem for teenagers. Acne treatment ranges from topical medicines to oral antibiotics to Accutane, which is a medicine reserved for treatment of severe recalcitrant acne. There are many nuances in the treatment of acne, and it is important for the dermatologist to help the patient find a regimen that not only works, but that fits within his or her lifestyle.