Your Skin: A Window to Your Health

"The skin can be a window to your overall health," says dermatologist Teri Greiling, M.D., Ph.D. This makes monitoring your dermatological health critically important. After all, a variety of diseases, including skin cancers, diabetes and auto-immune disorders like lupus, may show their first signs through rashes or lesions on the skin. 

Dr. Greiling joined the Center for Women's Health in October, making dermatology the newest offering available to patients at the Center. 

"Dermatology has long been in demand by our patients and providers," says Renee Edwards, M.D., M.B.A., co-director of the Center for Women's Health. "We're thrilled to strengthen our partnership with OHSU's Department of Dermatology and offer this important health service to our patients right here in the clinic." 

Dr. Greiling's most important goal is to make sure women are getting the screenings they need. "It's really critical to catch skin cancer as early as possible," she says. "Both men and women are at risk for skin cancer, but some women have used tanning beds, spent more time in the sun, or have exposed more areas of skin to its rays." 

She recommends that you see your health care provider if you have a new or changing lesion that fits a group of criteria called the ABCDEs of melanoma

  • Asymmetry –Irregular shape
  • Border –Irregular borders that may be difficult to define
  • Color –More than one color or uneven distribution of color
  • Diameter –Larger than six millimeters across, about the size of a pencil eraser
  • Evolving –Recent changes in color, size or shape 

Dermatologists like Dr. Greiling also diagnose and treat a variety of non-cancerous skin rashes and conditions and determine whether they might have an underlying cause. Dr. Greiling is especially focused on conditions caused by auto-immune diseases, an area in which she has conducted research. 

"Many auto-immune diseases manifest in the skin," says Dr. Greiling. "It's important for women to see their health care provider if they have symptomatic skin rashes because many auto-immune diseases have a higher prevalence among women." 

Even women who don't have a need to see a dermatologist can benefit from paying attention to their skin health. Most women wear sunscreen on sunny summer days, but sun protection is just as important in the winter. 

"UVB rays don't get through clouds, but UVA rays do," Dr. Greiling says. Wearing sunscreen daily on your exposed areas of skin can make a big difference in preventing skin cancer. 

The winter season can also bring dry, itchy skin, especially as we age and our skin loses some of its natural moisture. Dr. Greiling recommends an inexpensive, unscented moisturizer for your whole body. 

"There's a lot of misinformation from the cosmetic industry," she says. "Many anti-aging and other expensive creams come with outrageous, unsubstantiated claims about their effects. None of them work any better or worse than an inexpensive moisturizer from the drug store, and the anti-aging effects are mainly provided by sunscreen." 

Dr. Greiling sees patients at the Center for Women's Health on Tuesday afternoons and all day on Thursdays. If you have a dermatological concern, call 503-418-4500 to make an appointment or ask your Center for Women's Health care provider for a referral.