Published on October 1, 2019

Visit to the dermatologist was well worth the discomfort

By Edward A. Forbes / The Bulletin

I had my first-ever visit with a dermatologist, and it wasn’t as traumatic as I had envisioned. I was fortunate to discover that we have a specialist coming to our fair city, and I had no need to leave the city limits to be treated.

I have several spots on my bald head that need to be looked at. All of us who live on the Gulf Coast, especially those of us that are less that faithful about using sunscreens, need to be checked periodically, especially as we get older. I now qualify by residence and age.

I knew that I had found my doctor when he asked: “What brings you in today?” I couldn’t prevent myself from responding, “my truck.” He responded, “that’s good” without missing a beat.

He looked at some scarring on my left arm, and I said “Bougainvillea.” He then told me: “My Dad planted three in his yard, and I now have to mow for him. I wear a long-sleeved flannel shirt and gloves when I mow.”

We then discussed the relative merits of this cursed plant (beautiful flowers vs. viscous thorns). As our discussion wore down, he asked: “Are you familiar with liquid nitrogen?”

In a vacuum, liquid nitrogen (N2) has a temperature of -346 degrees F. It is used in cryotherapy to remove potentially malignant skin lesions, actinic keratosis. These are usually pre-cancerous, and early removal followed by a check-up is an effective treatment.

He asked if I was familiar with it, and I told him I was. He then asked if I had ever had treatment by a dermatologist using the liquid nitrogen. I answered no, because technically a friend who was a doctor had used it on me once, but he wasn’t a dermatologist.

He then warned me that it might cause some “discomfort,” and I replied: “If by discomfort you mean pain, am I allowed a curse word to mitigate the discomfort?”

He said that was acceptable and proceeded to spray small amounts from a steel-insulated vacuum container to each of the offending skin lesions. It stung a little, but pain is too big of a word to describe the discomfort. I limited myself to only one four-letter word, and it wasn’t darn.

I did not receive a sucker as a reward for good behavior, only a sheet with printed instructions for the treatment of the areas. In layman’s parlance, clean and grease twice a day or wash with soap and water or alcohol and apply antibiotic ointment twice a day. Healing takes from one to three weeks.

Cancer is a scary thing. If you or a loved one notice unusual changes in a mole, a scaly area, or a reddened area that doesn’t seem to heal, check with your doctor. You are too precious to lose over treatable skin lesions.

(Send comments by email to editor John Toth at john.bulletin@gmail.com. Or send regular mail to The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX 77516)