Gillian Athey has over 15 years of experience in the field of dermatology, both as a physician assistant and as a clinical manager. In addition to her clinical interests in the treatment and management of chronic skin disorders including eczema, psoriasis, and acne, she is also passionate about skin cancer education, treatment, and prevention.
She holds multiple advanced degrees in medicine, including an MS of Medical Science from St. Francis University and an MS in Physiology and Biophysics from Georgetown University. Currently, she is working toward a Doctorate of Medical Science from Butler University. As a Fellow Member of the American Association of Physician Assistants and a Diplomate Fellow of the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants, Gillian stays current on the latest developments in this rapidly advancing specialty.
Outside of work, her three young children and the family greyhound ensure that life is never boring. Gillian also serves on the Board of Directors of Food & Friends, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that employs the “food as medicine” approach, preparing and delivering over a million meals per year to local residents living with cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and other debilitating illnesses.
Actinic Keratosis, also known as solar keratosis, is a scaly or crusty lesion on the skin that develops slowly and indicates the presence of sun damage. It is most commonly found on parts of the body frequently exposed to the sun including the bald scalp, face, ears, lips, backs of the hands or forearms, neck, and shoulders.
Actinic keratoses are considered precancerous and can develop into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. In fact, some 40 to 60 percent of squamous cell skin cancers begin as untreated actinic keratoses.
Because of this, your doctor should be diligent in diagnosing, treating and monitoring actinic keratosis.
Annual Skin Examinations are yearly scheduled skin exams with a dermatologist. Did you know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S.? In fact, it is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Sun damage to the skin is cumulative over a person’s lifetime, so the average risk of skin cancer also increases as our life expectancy gets longer.
Just as you schedule your annual physical or trip to the dentist, it is important to conduct a self-examination of your skin each month and schedule a professional annual skin examination once a year. Skin cancer is a treatable condition, but early detection is key.
Basal Cell Carcinoma, also known as basalioma or basal cell cancer, is the most common type of skin cancer and carries the least amount of risk, though it still requires attention. If caught and treated early, basal cell carcinomas are not likely to be life-threatening, but they do have the potential to cause disfigurement of the skin tissue.
Almost one million new cases of basal cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year in the U.S., and up to 30% of Caucasians may develop basal cell carcinomas in their lifetime.
Skin cancer is considered low risk when the affected cells remain clustered in a single group. Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are rarely life-threatening. Though it is unlikely to spread to other parts of your body, if left untreated, basal cell carcinoma can move into nearby bone or other tissue.
Basal cell carcinoma typically begins as a small, shiny bump on the face, although it can occur on any part of the body.
Cryotherapy, or “cryosurgery,” is a simple, non-invasive procedure in which liquid nitrogen is used to freeze and destroy growths on the surface of the skin. This is an effective treatment for precancerous skin lesions (actinic keratoses), as well as other skin conditions such as warts, skin tags and moles.
Applying liquid nitrogen to skin lesions allows dermatologists to target the damaged skin cells and destroy them at the cellular level. After freezing, the affected area may blister and scab over, and should heal within three to six weeks.
Our dermatology team uses cryosurgery to treat a wide range of conditions. It offers a number of advantages: Cryotherapy is a simple, affordable outpatient procedure, the discomfort level is minimal, and there is a low risk of infection.
Melanoma, the deadliest of skin cancers, only accounts for about 4 percent of all skin cancer cases, but causes about 79 percent of skin cancer deaths.
Melanoma is a cancer of the skin that begins in the melanocytes, which are the cells that produce the pigment melanin. It is the leading cause of cancer death in women 25 to 30 years old and the second leading cause of cancer death in women 30 to 35 years old.
In some cases, melanoma occurs in melanocytes throughout the body, even if those parts have never been exposed to the sun.
A rare and aggressive form of skin cancer, sebaceous carcinoma is sometimes referred to as sebaceous gland carcinoma, sebaceous gland adenocarcinoma or meibomian gland carcinoma.
Sebaceous carcinoma can develop in any sebaceous glands, which lubricate the skin, but it most often begins on or around the eyelids. If it is found and treated early, treatment is often successful. However, if sebaceous carcinoma spreads, it can be deadly.
Because sebaceous carcinoma can appear to be a benign growth such as a stye, diagnosis is often delayed, which increases the risk of death. If you notice a growth on your eyelid, it’s important to make an appointment with your dermatologist. The sooner sebaceous carcinoma is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed each year.
Skin cancer is the result of uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells that takes place when skin cells suffer DNA damage and then mutate, causing them to multiply rapidly and form malignant (cancerous) tumors. Most skin cancers develop on the visible outer layer of the skin (the epidermis), particularly on sun-exposed areas such as the face, head, hands, arms and legs. They are usually easy to detect with a skin examination, which increases the chances of early diagnosis.
There are different types of skin cancer, each named for the type of skin cell from which they originate. The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. Almost one million new cases of basal cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year in the U.S. Most skin cancers fall into one of three categories:
There are often warning signs that cancer is developing. The most common are pre-cancerous lesions called actinic keratoses that often develop on sun-exposed areas. These tumors replace normal surrounding tissue and generally do not spread to other areas.
Skin cancer is considered low risk when the affected cells remain clustered in a single group. Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are rarely life-threatening.
Skin cancer is considered a high risk when cells have invaded surrounding tissues. The third most common skin cancer, malignant melanoma, can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early.
If skin cancer is detected before it has spread to surrounding tissues, the chances of a complete recovery and cure are excellent. High-risk forms of cancer like melanoma require more aggressive treatments.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is a common form of skin cancer that develops in the squamous cells that make up the outer layer of the skin. Although it is usually not life-threatening, it can be aggressive in some cases.
If left untreated, squamous cell carcinoma can grow large or spread to other parts of your body, causing serious complications.
Acanthosis Nigricans is a condition that causes the skin to become discolored in the creases and folds of your body. This dark colored skin sometimes becomes thickened and often shows up in the armpits, groin and the folds of the neck.
If you’ve struggled with moderate to severe acne, including cystic or nodular acne, you know that many common acne treatments aren’t effective for everyone. Fortunately, the physicians at U.S. Dermatology Partners commonly prescribe Accutane (isotretinoin) for the treatment of those patients with acne that is unresponsive to other therapeutic options.
Acne is a dermatological condition caused by inflammation and mild infection in clogged pores. If not properly treated, acne can cause emotional distress, low self-esteem, and depression. In severe cases, it can even lead to permanent scarring.
While not a serious physical health threat, acne is an embarrassing skin problem that can be life-altering for many patients. Though it is most common among teenagers, acne can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender, and can be mild, moderate or severe.
Alopecia Areata, also known as spot baldness, is a type of hair loss in which your immune system attacks hair follicles. This leads to areas of baldness on the scalp and body. In severe cases, a person with alopecia may even lose the hair of their eyebrows and eyelashes.
Athlete’s Foot earned its name because this contagious fungal infection is commonly seen in athletes, who may wear sweaty socks for long periods of activity. It affects the skin on the feet and, left untreated, can spread to toenails and even to your hands.
Related: 5 Common Foot Rashes
If you’ve noticed new skin growths, lumps, or bumps, chances are you’re dealing with a lesion. But, to know whether or not the lesion is benign, you’ll need to consult with a professional. At U.S. Dermatology Partners, our skilled dermatologists can partner with you to determine the type of lesion and help you decide if treatment is necessary for your condition. To get started, simply fill out our online scheduling request form, and a U.S. Dermatology Partners team member will be in touch to finalize the details of your visit.
Benign lesion is an umbrella term that may reference any number of non-cancerous lesions of the skin. These lesions may develop on any part of the body with soft tissue. They are classified (named) according to their specific sets of features, where they develop, and other characteristics. Determining if a lesion is non-cancerous requires an accurate diagnosis from a dermatologist.
Cold sores, which are also called fever blisters, are groups of blisters that appear on the lip and around the mouth. The blisters may break open and leak a clear fluid and then scab over. They may take up to two weeks to heal. They are caused by the herpes (HSV) virus.
Contact dermatitis is a common skin condition that impacts millions of people. At U.S. Dermatology Partners, we can help patients who struggle with contact dermatitis and other skin conditions to address their symptoms and look and feel their best. You can learn more about contact dermatitis on this page or by scheduling a consultation with a U.S. Dermatology Partners office location in your area.
Cysts are pockets of tissue (sacs) that may become filled with pus, fluids, skin cells, and even air.
They are fairly common on the skin and can appear anywhere on the body. Cysts may feel like a pea under the surface of the skin, but without removal, they can grow significantly larger over time. In most cases, cysts are not painful, and they grow slowly. There are different types of cysts as we’ll discuss in the next section, and the vast majority of these skin growths are benign (not cancerous). Not all cysts will require treatment, but it is vitally important to have any lump under the skin evaluated and diagnosed by a board-certified dermatologist because some soft tissue malignancies (growths that are cancerous) can present like a cyst. Before recommending removal or other cyst treatments, your dermatologist will examine the growth to determine whether it is likely to cause you pain, become infected, or otherwise lead to skin health issues.
Dandruff is a condition of the scalp which causes flaking and itching of the skin. It is more common in people with the skin conditions seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema, and also can be a reaction to hair or skin products.
Dermatitis, also sometimes referred to as eczema, is a common condition characterized by an itchy rash and inflamed skin. There are many different types of dermatitis and symptoms can range in severity from mild itching and redness to severe blistering and cracked skin.
Eczema, also sometimes referred to as dermatitis, is a common condition characterized by a certain type of inflammation in the skin. There are many different types of eczema and symptoms can range from mild itching and redness to severe blistering and cracked skin. Whether you’re newly diagnosed with eczema or you’ve struggled with this chronic skin condition for years, you know that finding a treatment that works for you isn’t just important – it’s essential. Without proper and effective interventions, people with eczema can experience significant discomfort, itching, and inflammation.
At U.S. Dermatology Partners, our knowledgeable dermatologists partner with their patients to develop and maintain an effective eczema maintenance plan and provide advanced treatments for serious flareups. Learn more on this page or contact U.S. Dermatology Partners to get started working with us today.
Epidermoid cysts are the most common type of cyst. They are normally benign and do not typically cause any serious health concerns. However, if epidermoid cysts are in an unfortunate spot or they’re painful, infected, or inflamed, your dermatologist, at U.S. Dermatology Partners, may recommend treatment. You can learn more about epidermoid cysts on this page or by getting in touch to schedule a visit. You can get started by completing our simple online scheduling form whenever you’re ready.
A fungal infection is an inflammatory condition that is caused by fungus. Fungal infections can appear in many parts of the body and include athlete’s foot, yeast infections, skin and nail infections and more.
Related: 5 Common Foot Rashes
You might ask, what does hair loss have to do with skin?
Hair is actually a protein filament that grows from follicles deep in the skin up through the top layer of your skin. Your hair helps to regulate body temperature and also serves to protect your scalp. Almost everyone experiences some degree of hair loss at some point in life.
Head lice is a common condition, especially among children. While it may sound creepy or embarrassing to have small mites (or nits) in your hair, it’s actually a very manageable condition that is typically easy to treat right at home. On this page, you can learn more about how to get rid of lice from your head and your home.
Herpes simplex virus, often referred to simply as HSV, is an extremely common viral infection impacting millions of people in the U.S. alone. While there’s no known cure for HSV, some treatments have proven effective in minimizing the number and severity of flare-ups. You can learn more about HSV, its symptoms, and treatment options on this page. You can also work with one of the knowledgeable professionals at U.S. Dermatology Partners to create a treatment plan. To get started, simply complete our online scheduling request form. One of our team members will be in touch soon to finalize the details of your treatment plan.
Hidradenitis suppurativa is rare skin condition in which small, painful lumps develop under the skin, usually in areas where the skin rubs together (armpits, groin, between the buttocks, under the breasts, etc.) or in areas near hair follicles where many oil and sweat glands are present. Sometimes, the lumps may break open and smell, or they may create tunnels under the skin.
It can continue for many years, may worsen over time and can have serious effects on your daily life and emotional well-being, particularly during outbreaks.
If you’re dealing with the itchy, inflamed, painful skin condition called hives, it may be time to call U.S. Dermatology Partners for help. Hives can be very uncomfortable, but recognizing the warning signs and taking appropriate actions to care for your skin can be important to quickly relieve these symptoms and get back to feeling your best. Keep reading to learn more about what causes hives and how your dermatologist can treat this condition.
Hyperhidrosis, often referred to as excessive sweating, occurs when people experience disproportionate and/or unnecessary sweat production. While sweating is a natural function of the body’s systems to keep itself cool and maintain the best temperature, sweating too much or sweating that is not necessary to cool the body can create many difficulties that impact your overall health and wellbeing. Generalized hyperhidrosis may affect the whole body. Others have localized cases of excessive sweating that impact only certain areas. Specifically, there are three main types of localized hyperhidrosis: axillary (impacting the underarms), palmar (impacting the palms), and plantar (impacting the feet). If you experience general or localized excessive sweating at least once per week, you should talk to a dermatologist about a treatment plan.
A lipoma is a common, non-cancerous, soft tissue growth just below the skin made up of fat cells. Though most lipomas are not a cause for concern, if the growth becomes too large, it may become painful.
Melasma is a fairly common skin condition that creates the appearance of brown to gray-brown patches of skin, usually on the face. It can also occur on the neck and forearms and is the result of the body producing too much melanin, that natural substance that colors our hair, skin, and eyes.
If you’re dealing with dark spots or patches on your skin from the chronic condition melasma, the U.S. Dermatology Partners team can help you to improve the appearance of these spots and minimize the risk for future flare-ups of the condition. Read the page below to learn more or reach out to the U.S. Dermatology Partners location nearest you for more information.
Milia is a commonly occurring skin condition that causes small bumps on the skin, and while these bumps may be irritating, the skin condition is harmless. You can learn more about milia, how it’s treated, and when to visit your dermatologist for help managing this skin condition on this page. If you have questions or want to schedule an appointment at U.S. Dermatology Partners, we invite you to take a few moments to complete our simple online request form.
Atypical moles, also known as dysplastic nevi, are unusual-looking benign (noncancerous) moles.
A dysplastic mole is one that, when viewed on a cellular level, has features unlike those of a healthy, benign mole. A benign mole will have a regular pattern of coloration and pigment, even borders, symmetry, and a tan or pink color. Dysplastic moles can be asymmetric, have indistinct borders, or contain multiple colors or very dark pigment.
Dysplastic moles are often spotted as the “ugly duckling” on a patient’s skin. Any departure from the typical mole a person’s skin makes may be dysplastic. They can appear anywhere on the body, but in most cases are found on the back, chest, buttocks, breasts, or scalp.
Molluscum contagiosum is a contagious skin disease that appears as pink or flesh-colored bumps on the skin. It is caused by skin-to-skin contact as well as from sharing towels, clothing or touching infected surfaces. It can also be acquired through sexual contact.
For adults, bumps are most often found on the face, neck, armpits, arms and hands. They may also appear on the genitals, abdomen and inner thighs.
Once you are infected with the virus, it can spread to other parts the body, especially if you pick or scratch at the bumps or touch other parts of your skin after touching the bumps. (This is called self-re-infection.)
A fungal infection of the toenails or fingernails typically looks like white or yellowed nails that may also be thick and brittle. The infection could affect one nail or part of a nail, or it could affect multiple nails. If left untreated, fungal infections can lead to permanent nail damage.
Telemedicine, also known as online dermatology, telehealth, or teledermatology, is the use of telecommunications technology to provide care across a distance. This includes using the Internet, cell phones, SMS messaging and even satellites to allow physicians and patients to communicate medical information. This technology has been available for over a decade now, but as it has gotten better and better, telemedicine has now become much more available, easy to use, and secure. If used in the right way, it is one of the best ways that we can improve access to care.
Because dermatology is a very visual field and a specialty in high demand, patient access is often challenged by long wait times. Meeting a dermatologist online can be a great way to provide patients with increased access to skin care. Teledermatology involves the use of real-time video streaming, or more commonly the transmission of still images, pictures, and video in combination with a patient’s medical information collected via questionnaire. Teledermatology can be utilized in many ways including physician-to-physician consultations, triage, follow-up care, and patient education.
Photodynamic Therapy, often referred to simply as PDT, is a medical treatment that uses photosensitizing agents and light exposure to treat a range of conditions, including skin cancers, acne, and actinic keratosis (“pre-cancers”). You can learn more about photodynamic therapy on this page, and the U.S. Dermatology Partners team would love to hear from you if you’re interested in scheduling a consultation to discuss photodynamic therapy. Simply use our online request form to schedule a consultation visit at the U.S. Dermatology Partners office closest to you.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory condition that causes patches of skin to become red, inflamed, and bumpy. This disease affects more than 8 million people in the U.S.
Psoriasis occurs when the immune system mistakes skin cells for a virus or other infection and responds by producing more skin cell growth. This can be triggered by stress, anxiety, injuries to the skin, infections and hormonal changes.
Despite the name, ringworm is not caused by worms; it is a skin infection caused by a fungus. It can be caused by touching another person who has the infection, or by sharing items that the person has been in contact — such as towels, bedding, chairs and clothes. It can also be caught from animals with fungal infections and, rarely, from contact with fungi in the soil.
Rosacea is a fairly common skin condition that causes redness in your face. In some cases, it may also produce small, red, pus-filled bumps. Typically these signs and symptoms may flare up for a period of weeks to months and then diminish for a while.
Rosacea may sometimes be mistaken for acne, an allergic reaction or other skin problems. It is believed to be caused by a combination of hereditary and environmental factors.
Learn more: 4 Types of Rosacea
Sebaceous hyperplasia is a benign bump on the skin that forms as a result of over-productive oil glands. When oil glands are damaged, they can become enlarged and clogged, leading to this condition. It is primarily a cosmetic concern rather than a medical problem.
Seborrheic keratosis is one of the most common noncancerous skin growths found in older adults. It most commonly appears as a brown, black or light tan growth on the face, chest, shoulders or back. Although they are not cancerous, they can look like skin cancer.
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash that occurs when the virus that causes chickenpox reactivates.
Typically, shingles appears on a small area on one side of the face or body. The rash is often painful because it travels up nerve roots (which supply sensation to your skin) to the area of skin supplied by those specific nerve roots.
Skin tags are small, soft skin growths that can occur anywhere on the body but are most common on the eyelids, neck, armpits, groin folds and under the breasts. They are harmless but they can be annoying, particularly if they are in an area where they are rubbed on by clothing. They may be flesh-colored, pink or may darken.
The sun can age and burn your skin, and it can also cause damage on the cellular level, leading to skin cancer. The good news is, the U.S. Dermatology Partners team can help you formulate a plan to prevent sun damage and repair the effects of the sun’s UV rays so that you can go out and enjoy a sunny day. Learn more on this page or contact U.S. Dermatology Partners to schedule an appointment with us.
Individuals who are prone to sunburn are thought to be genetically predisposed to skin cancer. Risk is also increased when exposure to UV rays is excessive. Sunscreen helps prevent the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation, including skin aging and skin cancer like melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Sunscreens are rated and labeled with a sun protection factor (SPF) that measures the fraction of sunburn-producing UV rays that reach the skin. The higher the SPF, the greater the protection.
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease in which white patches of skin appear on different areas of the body. This happens when melanocytes, the cells that make pigment in the skin, are destroyed. In addition to the skin, it can affect the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose as well as the eyes. Its cause is not known.
Warts are benign, non-cancerous growths that appear on the skin as the result of a virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV. They are contagious and are spread by contact – either with the wart or something that touched the wart. Cut or damaged skin is more vulnerable to warts.
Related: How to Identify a Wart
Birthmarks are common, benign skin conditions, and for the most part, their only negative effect is to mar the cosmetics appearance of the skin. If you or your child have a birthmark that causes you concern, a dermatologist can examine it to ensure it isn’t a more serious skin condition and provide treatment to remove or diminish the appearance of the birthmark. On this page, you can learn more about the different types of birthmarks and the available treatment options.
Botox, the commercial brand name for botulinum toxin (BTX), is an injectable cosmetic dermatology treatment that reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on the face.
Unlike injectable wrinkle fillers, which work by filling a crease in your skin with another substance, Botox actually relaxes targeted muscles to reduce the look of lines in the face. This results in smoother skin with a more youthful appearance.
Each Botox injection relaxes key facial areas by temporarily paralyzing specific muscles. This temporarily removes wrinkles and improves the look of laugh and frown lines, skin bands on the neck, crow’s feet, forehead creases and more.
Although it was originally developed to treat eye muscle disorders, Botox has become popular cosmetically and this is now its primary use. In fact, Botox injections are now the most common cosmetic treatment in the U.S., with 6.3 million procedures done in 2013. Because Botox inhibits the release of certain neurotransmitters, it is also sometimes used to treat chronic migraines.
Looking to improve and recover your skin’s youthful appearance?
As we age, our skin naturally loses collagen and elasticity. At the same time, repetitive movements and expressions can create facial wrinkles. In addition to comprehensive medical procedures, dermatologists also provide a wide range of minimally-invasive, low impact treatments designed to address a number of aesthetic desires to help you look and feel your best.
While many conditions from unwanted hair and tattoos to wrinkles and rosacea may not be physically harmful, they can be uncomfortable and even cause emotional distress. Cosmetic dermatology offers a wide range of cosmetic surgery and non-surgical services focused on giving you the results you want without the pain, worry, and downtime.
Dysport is a prescription injection used for the temporary improvement in severe frown lines between the eyebrows. As the muscles relax and prevent contractions, wrinkles in and around the brow and frown area will disappear.
Dysport, also known as Reloxin, is made from a neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum; it is the same neurotoxin used in BOTOX Cosmetic.
Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition characterized by small, hard bumps that may make your skin feel like sandpaper. Most often they appear on your upper arms, thighs and buttocks, and sometimes are accompanied by redness or swelling. In some cases they may appear on your face.
It is caused by a buildup of keratin, a protein that protects skin from infections. When a buildup forms, it blocks the opening of a hair follicle and creates the bumps, but doctors don’t know what triggers the buildup.
Latisse is a product designed to help grow eyelashes and has been on the market since earning FDA approval in December 2008. It is designed to help grow longer, lusher eyelashes and is available only by prescription.
We all want healthy, beautiful skin. But scars, a natural part of the healing process, leave a lasting mark and cause some people to struggle with the negative impact on the appearance of their skin and in some cases, limitations in function or other concerns. If you’re unhappy with the appearance, texture, or health of your skin after an injury, surgery, or other damage that leads to scarring, the U.S. Dermatology Partners team can offer treatment to improve the appearance of scarring.
Skin lightening is a process used for people who want to lighten certain areas of skin that are affected by such things as melasma, age spots or even freckles.
Spider veins are blood vessels that are visibly enlarged and can be seen on the face as well as other areas of the body, most commonly the legs. They may also be called broken blood vessels or thread veins, and appear as hairline marks that can be red, bluish or purple. They most often appear on the nose, chin or cheeks.
Broken blood vessels occur when the skin has been damaged. They are often caused by falls or accidents that caused bruising, or by scrubbing the face too vigorously. However, spider veins also can be caused by such factors as aging, pregnancy, estrogen replacement therapy, sun damage and rosacea. In the legs, they may be caused or worsened by standing or sitting for long periods of time, obesity and constipation.