Questions To Ask Your Dermatologist

Most people have come away from a doctor’s appointment realizing too late that they forgot to ask an important question. Writing down a list of questions beforehand helps avoid such a lost opportunity and ensures that the meeting is as informative and productive as possible. Acne patients should jot down their relevant medical history for the dermatologist, as well as questions such as what kind of acne they have, the causes of acne and the best treatment for acne. It might also be informative to ask the doctor how useful specific over-the-counter acne remedies are, or to ask about the newest acne treatment options, such as acne laser treatment.


Understanding Acne

In general, acne presents as inflammation, redness and pimples and is usually caused by a combination of hormones, skin oil and bacteria. Although acne most often occurs in adolescence, it can occur in adulthood as well. Adult patients should ask for an explanation of possible causes if they don’t understand why they’re experiencing acne. Patients should also ask their doctor whether they have mild, moderate or severe acne, since the best treatment for acne depends on its severity.

What are Blackheads?

Acne patients should first ask their dermatologist to explain acne. While doing so, the dermatologist may use terms like “whitehead” or “blackhead.” If in doubt, a patient should ask clarifying questions, such as “What are blackheads?” or “What’s the difference between mild and severe acne?” The dermatologist will be happy to define terms.

The answer to “What are blackheads?” is simply that blackheads are skin pores that are open and plugged with oil. They look dark because the oil in the pore darkens on contact with air. The difference between mild and severe acne is that mild acne is usually confined to redness and pimples, but more severe forms are marked by painful cysts that can result in scarring.

Causes of Acne

Acne patients should ask their dermatologist to explain the likely causes of their acne. Potential causes of acne include genetics, hormonal changes, medicines or friction on the skin, such as from washing skin too hard. Patients should ask which of these causes apply in their own case, and which acne treatment has the best chance of success.

Acne Treatment Choices

While there is no one-size-fits-all acne cure, a dermatologist will outline the specific acne remedies that apply to a patient’s situation. Depending on the cause and severity of the acne, these may include over-the-counter acne remedies, prescription acne pills, or even acne laser treatment. Patients should ask the doctor questions such as: “What are my treatment options? What are the pros and cons of each? Which treatments do you recommend, and why? What are the possible side effects and risks? If the first treatment doesn’t work, what comes next? What are my chances for achieving an acne cure?”

Acne pills

A dermatologist may choose to treat a patient’s acne with antibiotic gels, or antibiotic pills such as Erythromycin. Antibiotics work by killing the bacteria that aggravate acne. Dermatologists may prescribe stronger acne pills for patients with severe acne. Isotretinoin is sometimes prescribed for scarring cystic acne or acne that’s resistant to other treatments. However, this drug has severe potential side effects. Women who are pregnant or who plan to become pregnant – even for weeks after treatment ends – should not take Isotretinoin because of the risk of birth defects. Isotretinoin may also increase the risk of depression.

Best Birth Control for Acne

Some acne patients respond to oral contraceptives best birth control for acne. Birth control pills work best for women who break out during their menstrual cycle. Sometimes oral contraceptives are also combined with hormone-lowering drugs. The best birth control for acne can improve acne, though this method also carries the potential risk of headaches, depression and nausea.

Acne Laser Treatment

Laser treatment for acne is a relatively recent option. Lasers may be used to reach the oil glands deep in the skin and can reduce oil production without harming the surface skin. A dermatologist may also use a laser to improve the appearance of acne scars by destroying the outer layer of skin so that new skin forms. Because more research needs to be done on the best treatment for acne, laser treatment is recommended only for patients who can’t tolerate traditional acne medications. Laser treatment may result in temporary skin redness and discomfort.

Although there is no one definitive acne cure, patients with acne have a wide array of treatments available. Making a list of questions about the causes and potential treatments for acne will arm patients with the information they need to choose the right option.