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Approach to dermatologic diagnosis

Beth G Goldstein, MD
Adam O Goldstein, MD, MPH
Section Editors
Robert P Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH
Moise L Levy, MD
Deputy Editor
Rosamaria Corona, MD, DSc


The initial approach to the patient presenting with a skin problem requires a detailed history of the current skin complaint and a complete skin examination (figure 1A-B) [1]. In many cases the patient's general medical history may be relevant to the diagnosis of skin disorders. Although the visual aspects are of primary importance in the recognition of skin diseases, sometimes additional tests (eg, laboratory tests, skin biopsy) are required for accurate diagnosis. (See "Dermatologic procedures" and "Skin biopsy techniques".)

This topic will discuss the general approach to dermatologic diagnosis. The approach to the patient with specific skin signs and symptoms is discussed separately. Skin biopsy techniques are discussed separately. Laboratory tests used to refine or confirm a dermatologic diagnosis are discussed in relevant topics. The approach to the patient with hair or nail abnormalities, or oral lesions is also discussed separately.

(See "Approach to the patient with cutaneous blisters".)

(See "Pruritus: Etiology and patient evaluation".)

(See "Acquired hyperpigmentation disorders".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 14, 2015.
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