April 2024

It’s your first dermatology appointment - preparation is key!

When it comes to first being seen in a dermatology department, it can sometimes feel overwhelming. Often, you might have waited months or even years to be seen by a dermatologist. You might have also had your appointment cancelled or rescheduled or perhaps the clinic is running late and so you might be worried about getting back to work. All of these stressors can make your first consultation overwhelming and so we thought we would outline some “tips and tricks” to help get the most out of your initial consultation. 

Leave yourself enough time for your dermatology appointment

Due to the unpredictable nature of dermatology clinics, it is usually good to free up plenty of time ahead of your appointment. For example, if your appointment is scheduled for 09:00, consider taking the whole morning off from work in case there are any investigations needed or the clinic you are attending is running late. 

Fill in any forms or questionnaires before your dermatology appointment

Sometimes, you might be given questionnaires ahead of your consultation to complete. If this is the case, it is important that you do complete these ahead of time. These questionnaires can sometimes provide vital clues to your diagnosis but can also be used to assess the impact of the skin condition you might have.

Trust the process used by dermatology professionals

When seeing a dermatologist / dermatology nurse, they will first  want to take a detailed history from you. Though your GP might have asked detailed questions before, we like to get an up-to-date history in case so we can obtain an accurate picture of your dermatology problem and how it is impacting you, in addition, sometimes information might be missing or questions that can aid diagnosis and so we will re-ask for a full detailed history. People sometimes think diagnosing skin problems is easy but, in reality, skin can be complicated.  Sometimes we may need to ask questions that you might think are not relevant including medication history, recreational drug and alcohol use, sexual history, pregnancy plans, previous holidays and future travel plans, occupation and hobbies, herbal remedies, gym supplements.  All this information helps us make a diagnosis. 

Give your dermatologist or derm nurse a detailed history

It is not uncommon for people to attend dermatology departments having been prescribed many different treatments such as emollients and topical steroids. You might have also brought and tried several different types of creams from different shops. This information is also very helpful so please either bring in a bag with all of your creams, or alternatively, a picture.. It is important to know which ones you have been using, how long for and how your skin responded.. 

Photos of your skin on bad days can be helpful for the dermatology team

Skin can change regularly and some chronic conditions such as hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), psoriasis and eczema can be unpredictable. It is not unusual for your appointment to fall on a “good day” meaning your skin condition might be mild or even clear. Photos can be very helpful for your dermatology team so please do take photos of your skin at home particularly during those bad days as this can help with diagnosis and treatment planning. 

Jot down any notes or questions in advance to get the most out of your dermatology appointment

Finally, it is normal to sometimes feel overwhelmed during your first consultation and forget some important questions. Because of this, it is often a good idea to bring a notepad with you to write down any important information in addition, so that you can write any questions that spring to mind ahead of your consultation to ensure that we can answer all of your questions.

Emmanuel Toni, Advanced Nurse Practitioner in Dermatology and PhD Researcher at the Centre for Appearance Research, and Lucy Moorhead, Nurse Consultant in inflammatory skin disease.

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