Teledermatology during Covid 19

3 Apr, 2020

Covid 19 has arrived in New Zealand and this has produced rapid and profound change for us all in our work style. New Zealand dermatologists have adapted to the new environment and are strictly following the advice of the New Zealand government. Check the website of your dermatologist as this will explain the new procedures and give contact details.

Dermatology is well suited for telemedicine. Online virtual consultations are different but allow your care to continue during this period particularly for urgent problems. Ideally these are done in real time using video conferencing so that you can directly consult with your dermatologist. Sometimes it is easier to have the consultation on your smart phone rather than laptop or desktop so that the camera can be moved easily and the dermatologist can look at different areas of skin. It may be helpful to have someone who is with you in your “bubble” to help you move the phone to areas that you cannot easily reach. 

Some areas of New Zealand are very remote and internet access is unstable or poor quality. Another way to seek help is for you to take photographs and e mail them to your dermatologist who can phone you.  If you send photos make sure they are in focus and with a well-lit background so that the detail of the problem can be seen. For a dermatologist it is often helpful to see where the rash is on your body so take a “long shot” as well as “close ups” so that detail can be seen. 

Pharmacies remain open. Your dermatologist can send the prescription to the pharmacy. Remember to be very specific with the exact details of your pharmacy so that the prescription is sent to the right one!  Give the pharmacy a ring from home to make sure the medicine is ready to be picked up.  Do not go if you are immunocompromised or over 70 years old.

Major health insurers in New Zealand have agreed to fund virtual consultations during this period. The insurers who we understand have agreed to virtual consultations include Southern Cross, Accuro, NIB, AIA, AA, Police Plan, Sovereign and Partners Life.  Check with your insurer for details prior to the consultation.

Every New Zealand dermatologist extends their best wishes to you and your family/whānau during this time. Stay well, stay safe and be kind to each other.  


NZDSI Dermatologists: The Authority on Medical Dermatology, Surgical Dermatology and Cosmetic Dermatology. Why is this justified?

9 Feb, 2020

Although dermatologists are expert in all skin disorders, some have specialty interests and focus their work in specific areas. Some specialise in surgical dermatology especially skin cancer, some in medical dermatology (rashes) and some in cosmetic dermatology. If you look at the New Zealand Dermatological Society Inc (NZDSI) web page you will see the statement “The Authority on Medical Dermatology, Surgical Dermatology and Cosmetic Dermatology”. Why is this justified?

Training to become a dermatologist in New Zealand is rigorous. It may take 12-15 years. Initially there is the university course to graduate as a doctor, usually 6 years. Then follows post graduate training. The initial part is to pass the examinations of Royal Australasian College of Physicians which can be sat after 3 years. After passing these exams, the prospective dermatologist can then apply for a dermatology training position. This is a further 4 years whole time with 2 years spent overseas to build international experience. Some dermatologists will undertake specific additional training in their specific field of interest.
This detail is given so that you can understand the depth and length of training required to become a dermatologist in New Zealand and for you to have confidence in the dermatologist you choose to see. For example, if you have a specific cosmetic question, you will have assurance that the dermatologist will have a full understanding of all the medical (non-surgical) and surgical options for you based on deep and broad experience.

Only NZDSI Dermatologists are permitted to use the distinctive logo. Look for it.


Psoriasis-what is in a name?

16 Dec, 2019

Psoriasis, what is in a name?  A disorder that affects 1-2% of all New Zealanders and causes a huge amount of distress for those afflicted. It does not discriminate.

Psoriasis is a red scaly rash commonly on the elbows and knees but actually can affect any part of the skin including the scalp. It can also be found on body folds and on the nails causing them to become thickened and to split.

Many sufferers of psoriasis adapt their life to the disease, covering up and sometimes avoiding social contact. It can be very stigmatising. It may not be possible to swim at the beach or pool. For some, even a small area of psoriasis, depending on the body site, can be very distressing.

Seek treatment for psoriasis if you have it. There are a range of possible treatments including cream, light, tablets and medications called biologic agents. Light treatment called narrow band ultraviolet light can be very effective especially when there is too much psoriasis to treat with cream. There are a range of tablets which need to be suited to the individual. In New Zealand, there are four biologic agents, funded by Pharmac provided the correct criteria are reached.  These biologics are adalimumab, etanercept, infliximab and secukinumab. There are other biologic agents for psoriasis. These are currently not funded by Pharmac.

There is an enormous amount of research in to psoriasis going on around the world, including in New Zealand, and the future for new and effective treatments is very promising.

It is often commented that stress makes psoriasis worse. Here in New Zealand at the University of Auckland, with the Department of Psychological Medicine, the Faculty of Science and Dermatology there is a study for New Zealanders examining this problem and trying to answer the question – why? The study needs participants so if you are interested in taking part and New Zealand based please e mail Mikaela, a PhD candidate, at

Psoriasis, what is in a name? The answer is complex.

Skin Cancer and Mohs Surgery

26 Oct, 2019

After our last blog you may have had a skin check! Although it is a chilly day for late October the NIWA alert for today recommends sun protection from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm. A cold day does not necessarily mean that no sun protection is needed!

Basal cell skin cancer is the most common form of skin cancer in New Zealand. These skin cancers are fully curable once they are completely removed. They are different from melanomas.

There are lots of ways to treat a basal cell skin cancer. It is important that the correct type of treatment is applied to the basal cell cancer depending on where it is on the body. The highest cure rate is getting it cut out with surgery. The other ways to treat them include freezing with liquid nitrogen, using a cream called imiquimod and a technique called curettage and cautery which involves scraping away the skin cancer with a special spoon shaped instrument and then cauterising the base.

Not all basal cell skin cancers are exactly the same when they are examined under the microscope. Some are more invasive than others which means they can spread further within the skin than can be seen with the naked eye. This can be a problem for surgery especially on the face, for example around the eyes and nose, as it may be impossible to know where they stop and start. 

A choice of treatment your dermatologist may recommend for some difficult basal cell skin cancers is called Mohs surgery. Skin cancers grow in a higgledy-piggledly way. Some of the “roots” may be longer than others and growing in lots of different directions. Frederic Mohs was an American surgeon who invented this technique. The technique involves carefully following the “roots” of the skin cancer until it is fully removed by examining the cut out skin cancer under a microscope during the operation and then returning to the exact location where the cancer remains if more needs to be removed. Mohs is usually done with a local anaesthetic and not general anaesthetic. For some this may mean re-entering the operating theatre several times during the day until the dermatologist is certain it has all gone. Once the skin cancer has been completely removed the hole that has been made by the surgery will be repaired.

Mohs surgery has an advantage that it only removes the exact amount of skin that is needed to get rid of the skin cancer and no more. Mohs surgery keeps the hole as small as possible and therefore the smallest scar so that the best possible cosmetic outcome can be obtained. Mohs has a high cure rate for difficult basal cell skin cancers. Five years after a Mohs operation for difficult basal cell skin cancers that have never had previous treatment, there is an approximate 98-99% cure rate and for those difficult basal cell skin cancers that have come back after a standard surgery, there is an approximate 95% cure rate.

The NZDSI has recently formed the New Zealand Society of Mohs Surgeons to promote the highest standard of Mohs surgery. The New Zealand standards adopted are intentionally equivalent to those of The Australasian College of Dermatologists which represents all Australian dermatologists. NZDSI approved Mohs surgeons have to complete additional mandatory continuous professional education to maintain their Mohs skills as this is a specialised technique not performed by all dermatologists. You can find more details about Mohs surgery and a list of NZDSI approved Mohs surgeons in this website.

Time to check your skin-its Spring!

21 Sep, 2019

September is here and Spring has sprung!  Longer daylight hours, bright blossoms and colourful flowers with the promise of warmer weather and sunshine.

New Zealand Dermatologists recommend this is a good time to check over your skin.

Normal moles are symmetrical in shape and colour, have a smooth outline and do not change in size in adults.  Most people have moles that look similar over their body. 

If a mole changes get it checked.

The ABCDE rule is useful to remember if your mole is changing.

  • Asymmetrical (draw a line through it and the two halves look different).
  • Irregular Border (uneven edges of the mole).
  • Varied Colours (these can include shades of black and brown, red, pink, pale and some have no colour).
  • Diameter bigger than 6 mm (bigger than the end of a big pencil).
  • Evolving (changing colour, shape, itchy or getting crusty).

These can be signs of a melanoma skin cancer so arrange to have it checked urgently. The earlier a melanoma is treated the better the outcome. Melanoma is curable if caught early.