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Overview of Dermatology

Dermatologists manage skin diseases in people of all ages. Most dermatologists are skin surgeons as well as physicians. Skin diseases are disfiguring, distressing and highly symptomatic. Chronic inflammatory skin diseases significantly reduce quality of life and they impose a considerable burden within the community. About one in four of the population are affected by skin disease that would benefit from medical care. In the UK skin diseases are among the commonest certified causes of incapacity to work.

Between 1981 and 1991 consultations for skin disease in general practice rose by almost 50%. This reflected an increase in prevalence of common problems such as atopic eczema, venous leg ulcers and skin cancer as well as the availability of effective treatments. GPs refer 1-2% of the population to dermatologists each year as new patients.

Teaching and postgraduate education are essential parts of the work of dermatologists, who teach and train medical students, postgraduates, GPs and nurses. Although about 15% of GP consultations relate to problems with the skin, only 20% of GP vocational training schemes contain a dermatological component; and the undergraduate curricula contains on average only six days of dermatology. Newly appointed GPs therefore have little experience of dermatological problems.

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