There are a few words a dermatologist likes to hear over the phone and which will indicate that you have at least some minute interest in the specialty. It’s like a mental diagnostic flow chart that allows the person on the other end of the phone to start thinking about the possible causes for the problem that you are describing. No the word is not ‘rash’ or ‘lesion’ or anything vague like that. First of all, is what you are seeing red and scaly or red and non-scaly? Or is the rash pustular/blistering/vesicular? By using terminologies like these you are leading the dermatologist over the phone down a certain diagnostic pathway and hence also treatment pathway. Not to mention they will be greatly impressed.
From a history perspective, it is not dissimilar to how you would present any other medical case (history of presenting complaint/past medical history/medication/social history/physical examination…) But in addition to this, the words to describe the morphology of the actual problem is the most tricky bit.
So here are the acronyms that I use and feel free to make up your own:
Red and Scaly
PMS PETAL (or Prime Minister’S cat PETAL)
Red and Non-scaly
CUL DVA EVIE(or C U Later at the Department of Veteran Affairs EVIE)
Viral or bacterial infection
ICI(International Chemical Industry)
Inflammatory and immunological
II (II captain)
You do not have to come to the correct diagnosis but it’s good to be able to paint an accurate picture and be the eyes for the person that you are talking to on the phone. Dermatology is of course one of the most (if not the most) visually oriented specialties.
In the coming weeks, we will go through each acronym in greater detail. Next time, we will look at the common topical steroid agents used in dermatology.
Until next time,
P.S: Darier is not my real name but it’s the name of a famous French dermatologist. Guess which skin disease he described?