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Most common dermatologic problems identified by internists, 1990-1994.

BACKGROUND: Internists in all settings see many patients with skin conditions. Thus, their education in dermatology is important. Information on which areas of dermatology are most commonly seen in internal medicine practices is necessary for designing effective educational programs on skin disease.

OBJECTIVE: To determine what types of dermatologic problems internists most commonly diagnose.

METHODS: National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data from 1990 to 1994 were analyzed for dermatologic diagnoses. Physicians specializing in internal medicine and all its subspecialties were compared with dermatologists and with other physicians.

RESULTS: The most common skin disorders diagnosed by internists were dermatitis (15.8% of all diagnoses) and bacterial skin infections (14.0% of all diagnoses). Combined, bacterial, fungal, and viral infections included 28.3% of the most common dermatologic diagnoses made by internists. The top 10 most common diagnoses accounted for 57.9% of all skin-related diagnoses and the top 20 most common diagnoses accounted for 72.8%. Internists were more likely to see patients for bacterial skin infections, herpes infection, exanthem, urticaria, and insect bites while dermatologists more commonly saw patients for actinic and seborrheic keratoses, warts, benign and malignant skin tumors, and psoriasis.

CONCLUSIONS: The most common dermatologic diseases diagnosed by internists differ considerably from those diagnosed by dermatologists. Because dermatologists do much of the dermatology teaching of internal medicine residents, it is important to recognize these differences to place emphasis on the proper areas of study. Some common or serious skin conditions not often diagnosed by internists such as psoriasis and melanoma also deserve attention in internal medicine training programs.

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