The Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (AEDV) has decided to pay tribute to the important role of women who specialise in these fields by looking at how the profession has evolved in recent years, and at up-to-date figures regarding the most frequent skin problems which affect women.
Society is changing and fortunately women are playing a greater role in the medical profession nowadays. As an example the AEDV has 2,478 specialist dermatologists, of whom 1,378 are women. The presence of women in this field has been progressively increasing and in the last few years more women than ever before have held top jobs, at the AEDV and at universities.
Some skin conditions affect women more than men, and Dr Paloma Cornejo, a member of the AEDV, says the most common ones are acne, rosacea, melasma and alopecia.
Dr Cornejo explains that acne does not only affect adolescents and adults can suffer from it into their 40s. It is especially prevalent among women in such cases.
The clinical spectrum of acne can range from small non-inflamed comedones to pustules and papules and even deep, painful cysts which can leave scars. For this reason, Dr Cornejo says it is very important that acne is treated by a dermatologist, because it is not something unimportant which can be easily eradicated with cream or soap. It is often associated with some hormonal problem such as a polycystic ovary syndrome which would require oral medication.
The doctor explains that diet plays a role in treatment for acne (reducing dairy products, especially skimmed ones, and foods with a high calorific-glycemic index), as do triggering factors such as unsuitable cosmetics or a contraceptive with an androgenic effect, which will have to be changed. The treatment will depend on the severity of the case. The use of antibiotics is very limited because people can become resistant to them, but anti-androgenic contraceptives can prove effective.
The second most common dermatological problem is rosacea. This is an inflammatory illness of the skin which affects the central facial region in the form of reddening, papules and pustules with a burning sensation and feeling of tightness. Sufferers can often not tolerate cosmetics. Over time the redness becomes chronic and blood vessels may become visible.
Dr Cornejo says it is essential to consult a dermatologist for this condition, because it is possibly one of the most difficult of all to treat. The treatment can be topical and/or oral (generally with antibiotics) and dermo-cosmetic treatment may be a patient's best ally or worst enemy by triggering outbreaks. That is why professional assessment is so important.
Melasma is a symmetrical pigmentation in the facial region (forehead, cheeks, upper lip) and often affects women of fertile age. It is associated with oestrogens, although it is triggered by the sun. The ingestion of contraceptives is one classic cause, but many women who have not taken these still suffer from it.
Prevention is vital, by using continual sun protection and especially products which have well as UVB and UVA filters and even a filter against visible radiation. Physical filters such as titanium dioxide are often the most effective.
With regard to treatment, as well as topical depigmenting products, specific peeling treatments are very useful. They can clear pigmentation by more than 70 per cent "and nowadays there is a new ingredient, tranexamic acid, which is used to reduce bleeding in heavy periods and which has proven effective in reducing a tendency to pigmentation," says Dr Cornejo. It is only available by prescription.
Another fundamental and common problem seen by dermatologists is alopecia, when hair drops out. This is especially common after the menopause, because of the alteration between oestrogens and androgens in favour of the latter. In any case, an expert opinion should always be sought about the best pharmaceutical treatment for it.