Please help me find a good Boston-area dermatologist who can tell me within a month if this is cancer or a mild annoyance.
October 5, 2009 6:43 AM   Subscribe

Freaky-looking unpigmented spots have appeared on my arms. Mass General Dermatology has no appointments until January. Please help me find a good dermatologist in the Cambridge/Boston area who knows the difference between "sometimes skin just looks like that" and "skin cancer."

The goal: To find a good dermatologist in the Boston area who can see me within the next month to evaluate strange changes in skin color.

The details: Over the course of this summer and early fall, strange white spots appeared on both of my arms. They aren't raised or different in texture, like eczema-- they are like spots of skin that seem to be unpigmented, and I noticed them as the rest of my arms became slightly tanned. There's a larger (half-inch in diameter) one on my right arm that's especially strange. I apply sunscreen every day evenly over my arms, and I've never seen anything like this before in previous summers.

I realize that this could be anything from a newly-developed quirk of my skin, to a side effect of a medication, to some sort of vitamin deficiency. That said, given the possibility that this is something more serious, I'm still concerned and would like to get this addressed sooner than later. I always try to go with research institution-affiliated hospitals for medical treatment, but Harvard/Mass General has no openings until January.

I don't have a car and am in Cambridge. Anything there, or right over the bridge in Boston or in bike-accessible suburbs such as Belmont, Arlington, and Watertown would be especially helpful.

Thanks as always, guys.
posted by foxy_hedgehog to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've been extremely happy with Harvard Vanguard. They have Cambridge and Somerville offices. Here's the contact info for their Cambridge dermatology department.
posted by olinerd at 6:51 AM on October 5, 2009

While you are looking for a dermatologist, you might want to read about vitiligo.
posted by netbros at 7:21 AM on October 5, 2009

Thanks for that, netbros...I'm still confused, since I have very fair (vs. dark) skin, and it just happens that I had a blood panel recently that showed normal thyroid levels, iron, adrenal etc. Or maybe it's the idiopathic kind.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 7:23 AM on October 5, 2009

Tinea Versicolor? Also know as jungle rot.
posted by jasondigitized at 7:32 AM on October 5, 2009

My mom and I both develop what we call "reverse freckles" on our arms every summer. For me, it didn't start until a few years ago (I'm 33). I never even thought to worry about it, and I've found when they recur the next year they are in the same place. Like you said, it just looks like there are spots with less/no pigment. I am also fair skinned.

Sorry I can't be of more help, but I hope it helps you worry less.
posted by misskaz at 7:36 AM on October 5, 2009

yea, sounds like vitaligo. My girlfriend's had it for years. I'm not a dermatologist though. Hers is accompanied by a nickel allergy, but it's an autoimmune with no known cause or cure...but steroidal creams seem to slow it down.
posted by TomMelee at 7:43 AM on October 5, 2009

I have an amazing dermatologist, Dr. Travers, at Skin Care Physicians. While it's a little challenging to get there on the T, it is possible, and I think probably worth it. It is quite honestly the most week run medical office I have ever been to, and, unfortunately, I've been to my share of medical offices. While I have only seen Dr. Travers, I have heard raves about the rest of the practice, too.
posted by katemcd at 7:58 AM on October 5, 2009

While you're waiting to see a dermatologist, could you see your general physician? They could probably tell you what is going on, and then if necessary refer you to a derm. You said you just had a blood panel, so I assume you have a general physician. It might help to alleviate the fears that you are having.
posted by fresh-rn at 8:00 AM on October 5, 2009

Here is a better picture of tinea versicolor. I had this for a while and Selsun Blue rubbed on the skin cleared it up
posted by jasondigitized at 8:33 AM on October 5, 2009

Vitiligo is often suggested as an indicator for gluten intolerance, from animalpharm
posted by zentrification at 8:45 AM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

While you're waiting for a doctor's appointment you might try treating for tinea -- IIRC it responds to anti-fungal cream.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:12 AM on October 5, 2009

Thanks everyone, for the referrals and all the information.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:46 PM on October 5, 2009

Zentrification- thanks for that link. You may have just provided the answer to "what's wrong with my girlfriend", a game we've been playing for a couple years.
posted by TomMelee at 5:19 AM on October 6, 2009

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