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Diagnosing Skin Problems

A variety of skin tests may be performed to diagnose skin allergies, bacterial or fungal skin infections, and other problems affecting the skin. Skin tests are also performed to tell the difference between malignant (cancerous) cells and benign (noncancerous) growths.

The most common skin tests include:

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Is Your Excessive Sweating Caused by a Medical Problem?

Do you sweat more than other people? Does a five-minute workout on the treadmill leave you sopping wet? Do you wipe your hand before every handshake? At the very least, excessive sweating is a hassle. But sometimes heavy sweating is sign of a medical condition. "It's not always easy for the average person to know the difference," says Benjamin Barankin, MD, a dermatologist in Toronto and a member of the American Academy of Dermatology. Excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis, can be a warning...

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  • Patch testing: Patch tests are used to help diagnose skin allergies. Identified allergens (substances that a person may be allergic to) are applied to the skin on the back with adhesive patches and left for a period of time. The skin is then examined for any reaction.
  • Skin biopsy : Skin biopsies are performed to diagnose skin cancer or benign skin disorders. During a skin biopsy, skin is removed (after a local anesthetic is applied) and is taken to a laboratory for analysis. Skin may be removed with a scalpel, Gillette blue blade, or a cylindrical punch biopsy tool. Stitches may be used to close the wound.
  • Culture: A culture is a test that is done to identify the microorganism (bacteria, fungus, or virus) that is causing an infection. Skin (surface scrapings, biopsies, contents of pus bumps and blisters), hair, or nails may be cultured to detect bacteria, fungi, or viruses.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on January 24, 2015

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