Ask an expert: Three dermatology services that make for very grateful patients

By Matthew McClelland, M.D., a dermatologist at Providence Medical Group-Bridgeport.

Skin problems aren’t always just skin deep. They can affect our comfort, our health, our appearance and our confidence. Any time a dermatologist can help find a solution, it makes for a very happy patient. But three dermatology services, in particular, lead to especially grateful patients. They are:

A surprising treatment for excessive underarm sweating

Most people are familiar with Botox® as a treatment for wrinkles. But few realize that Botox injections also can treat axillary hyperhidrosis – a condition that causes profuse underarm sweating. Although the condition is fairly common, it carries a terrible social stigma, affecting everything from clothing and activity choices to professional and personal lives. You can imagine how happy people are when they discover that it can be treated – simply, safely and effectively.

Botox significantly reduces underarm sweating for about six months. It is very safe, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and covered by most insurance plans (preauthorization requirements may apply). Some of my happiest patients are those who have had this treatment. When they return after the first six months for their second treatment, they are – without exception – thrilled with the results, and they rave about the positive impact it has had on their lives.

A simple and inexpensive way to remove age spots

There is still no miracle cream that will eliminate age spots. These flat or slightly raised brown spots commonly show up on the face and the back of the hands as we age. People really hate them. “They make me look old,” my patients say. So they’re pretty happy when I tell them that a simple and relatively inexpensive treatment can eliminate most of these spots without any scarring.

The treatment I’m talking about is not laser therapy, which is what patients most often ask about. Lasers are sometimes used to remove age spots, but those treatments are very expensive and often painful. A much less expensive solution that works just as well, if not better, is cryotherapy – that is, freezing the spots with liquid nitrogen. This isn’t recommended for people with darker skin, who can experience lightening or darkening of the skin following the procedure. But for lighter-skinned people, it removes age spots very well without any residual scarring or lightening of the skin. The treated areas turn pink and crusty for a couple of weeks, and then the crust sloughs off, leaving normal healthy skin behind. It’s always surprising to patients to learn how simple it is, and how little it costs, to make such a huge difference in the appearance of their skin.

Finding skin cancer

Without a doubt, nothing leaves patients feeling more grateful than when their dermatologist discovers a skin cancer that they didn’t know about. It’s fairly common to find skin cancer while examining patients for unrelated issues, such as rashes or acne. During one busy week, I discovered melanomas in four patients who came to see me for completely different skin issues. Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer deaths in young adults, but in most cases, it is completely curable if we catch it early in its development.

Finding melanoma early can be a lifesaver, so everyone should be on the lookout. It usually shows up either as a new black spot or as a strange-looking new mole that looks different from the rest of your moles. Some existing moles can evolve into melanoma, so any mole that has changed should be evaluated by a dermatologist. Worrisome changes include changes in color – especially darkening; changes in size or shape; and moles that start to itch, bleed or feel painful.

Not all skin cancer is melanoma. Two common forms – basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma – are not usually life-threatening, but can cause devastating skin damage. These types of cancer often start out as a bump that bleeds easily, hurts or just won’t heal. They frequently develop on the nose, ears and other parts of the face, so finding them early makes a big difference not only in the ability to cure the cancer, but also in minimizing scarring and preserving a person’s appearance afterward.

Dr. McClelland is board-certified in dermatology. He sees patients at Providence Medical Group-Bridgeport along with two other dermatologists who are all currently accepting new patients. To inquire about an appointment, please call 503-216-0700.

See our Health Information Library for more information on melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.