What's This Rash?
I have tremendous respect for my PA and NP colleagues in dermatology. With eyes as skilled as Picasso's, they have the horribly difficult job of identifying literally thousands of skin conditions, ranging from benign to deadly.
Dermatology confuses me. It must me my engineering background. I'm more comfortable with mathematical equations and computer code than with images. Give me lab values! For some reason pictures just don't stick in my thick skull.
Here's an example: Before going to the library I look up the books I want in their online catalog and memorize the call numbers for the books that I want to check out. I go to the library and head straight to the shelves and get the books I want. There's no need to write down the numbers--I just remember them.
Here's the problem: I am so directionally challenged that I frequently get lost on city streets that I've traveled many times. By contrast, my wife is like a Viking. She has a global positioning system in her head. She can literally look at a map before we go on a trip and memorize it. We have been in Florida and she will say, "OK, turn left here, up ahead is going to be a fork in the road, stay to the left..." Though we've never been there before, she knows where to go. It's freakish!
Then there's me. I'm always lost. I've discovered that the best thing about my car alarm is its ability to help me locate my car in a parking garage. I've used it at least a dozen times just because I don't remember where I parked! I listen for the alarm, then look for the flashing lights and, for good measure, I pop my trunk lid remotely too. The folks watching the security cameras in the parking garage must roll on the floor laughing.
Images just don't stick with me, but I can still recall legal text citations that I learned in graduate school 20 years ago! I'm just not right.
So, when it comes to dermatology problems (or reading a map or finding my car), I'm quick to defer to my more experienced colleagues.
One Web site that has helped me sort out a harmless itch from a deadly skin condition is DermAtlas.
It's a nice Web site that boasts a database of 11,713 images with 500+ contributors. The site, sponsored by Johns Hopkins University, has a simple design and a rich feature set that will help even the most confused visitors--namely, your humble technology blogger.
The site provides several ways to research skin conditions, from simple search criteria to a very comprehensive search engine.
When you are really confused, just use their "Differential" search screen.
Their Web site lists this feature as "Under Construction," but from the queries I've used, it works well. Of course, some things will be odd. For example, I put in "color = blue" and "pattern = asymmetric." Included in the differential were many items including "tattoo." Well, I know I have challenges with images, but if I don't know what a tattoo is, then I should quit now and hang up the old medical license.
The really interesting thing is that there are some amazing pictures of a tattoo in various stages of healing from a YAG laser treatment.
In addition to the many search features, there is also a quiz so you can put your newfound knowledge of dermatology to the test:
If you are looking for a handy, online reference of dermatology images, check out DermAtlas from Johns Hopkins University. If you know of other dermatology resources, be sure to post a comment. I love the feedback. If you have any tools that will help me find my car, I'd love to hear about those as well!