Dermatology is the branch of medicine dealing with the skin, nails, hair and its diseases. It is a specialty with both medical and surgical aspects. A dermatologist treats diseases, in the widest sense, and some cosmetic problems of the skin, scalp, hair, and nails. Dermatology is the study of the structure and function of the skin, including how skin pathologies relate to malfunctions of other bodily organs.
The skin is the largest organ of the human body, and one of the most complex. Its main purpose is to protect the internal organs from harmful external influences, such as bacteria, viruses, allergens, disease, sun, wind and rain. The skin also often serves as an indicator of underlying problems with internal organs.
A dermatologist is a medical doctor who has been certified by a recognized board of dermatology as a physician specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of skin, hair and nail conditions and diseases. Functions of dermatologists include diagnosis, prevention through education and examination, surgery and cosmetic procedures to improve the appearance of skin damaged by sunlight, aging, disease or other causes.
Dermatologists train extensively before taking the certification examination. First, the candidate must graduate from an accredited medical or osteopathic school in the United States, or obtain a standard foreign graduation certificate if graduating from a school outside the United States. Upon graduation, the candidate completes a first-year residency program in general clinical training with an emphasis in one of the following areas: internal medicine, general surgery, family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics or emergency medicine.