The dermatologist with skin problems
Bav Shergill: As a teenager I was terribly embarrassed about my skin – I had really bad acne from the age of 15. It took me until I went to medical school to find the courage and confidence to change my GP and get a hospital referral.
Now, when i’m treating patients with acne I can reassure them by drawing on my own experience. I can say: “I was on this drug, too, and my head didn’t fall off.”
This connection between my own experience and relating to patients increased in my late 30s when I discovered I had rosacea. This causes severe redness and inflammation and can develop into acne-like spots, accompanied by a stinging, burning sensation.
Rosacea breakouts can be triggered by a number of things, including caffeine, alcohol and stress – in my case, I was preparing to go on TV while working full-time and trying to look after a poorly, heavily pregnant wife and small child at home when my face flared up. I’d treated rosacea before, so I knew what it was, but mine was the worst case I’d ever seen.
A nurse I worked with said: “It’s OK, there’s a whole range of products for rosacea and acne-type skin. We can cover this up.” I would never have considered make-up, but watching the programme later, I couldn’t see a blemish.
So that’s a tip I was then able to pass on to patients. If they were worried about putting cream on their painful skin, I was able to reliably tell them that the discomfort would pass and I was living proof the medication worked. I know only too well how difficult it can be to face the world during an outbreak, so I don’t brush aside that aspect of it at all. I’m aware how much it can impact on someone.