Principles of Diagnosis

Dermatologic diagnosis often begins with pattern recognition. Experts can look at most lesions and make an immediate and accurate diagnosis through pattern recognition. The basic terms used to describe lesion morphology and patterns provide the vocabulary to describe what is seen. The physician then combines keen observation of the lesions (including type and distribution) with a careful history to create an informed differential diagnosis. If the diagnosis is still not known, the physician can consult a dermatology atlas (online or print), textbook, or expert to complete the diagnosis. In some cases, further testing (scraping, culture, biopsy) may be needed.

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