A woman looks concerned as she holds a photo frame showing a suspicious mole.

Granuloma Annulare: A Look Back at My First Dermatologist Visit

I write a lot about my first visit to a dermatologist. In my mind, my first appointment with one was in 2007 for the excision of a spot diagnosed as melanoma. That was the appointment that changed everything. It was the first of countless visits for regular check-ups, cryosurgery, excisions, and Mohs surgeries. Truth be told, I actually saw one almost two decades earlier. So many years had passed, I had honestly all but forgotten.

A suspicious mole

When I was in junior high school, I noticed a strange spot on my ankle. It was like no other mole or freckle on my body. It was a raised, dark reddish-purple patch, and it grew quite quickly. It didn’t itch, wasn’t scaly, and wasn’t scabbed over. In fact, it was quite soft and caused me no discomfort. If it wasn’t so odd, I doubt I would have ever mentioned it to my mother. The 80's wasn’t the decade known for its focus on skin care, as many of us remember. That being said, we probably put off seeing a doctor much longer than we would today.

Finding the right doctor

After several weeks or more of watching this little purple spot, it grew until the entire top of the bone was covered in the raised, dark purple flesh. I had what amounted to a circle about the size of a half-dollar centered perfectly over my ankle. It had begun to resemble ringworm but had none of the other characteristics.

No one seemed concerned

I remember making a couple of trips to our local clinic. No one seemed particularly concerned, and each time I went, I was given a different cream to apply. I distinctly recall using almost the full tube of one of the creams and seeing no difference in the size or color of the spot.

Someone finally referred me to a dermatologist

This spot-turned-patch, however, was beginning to unnerve me, and I now had more than one. On the top of my right foot, a spot slightly smaller than a dime had begun to materialize, and it was the same color and texture as the other. Due to the fact that all medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, had yielded absolutely no results, my family doctor told my mother I needed to see a dermatologist.

Liquid what?

It’s funny looking back now. My first trip to a dermatologist was brief and to the point. This doctor, whose nurse didn’t take my temperature or blood pressure and didn’t listen to my heart, took one look at my ankle and confidently called it granuloma annulare. He brought out a metal can with a nozzle and told me he was going to freeze it. His matter-of-fact attitude was comforting, but I was shocked at the punch the liquid nitrogen packed. I remember him zapping each of my purple patches once or twice, and he sent me on my way. As quickly as they had started to manifest, they began to disappear.

Granuloma annulare

Granuloma annulare is noncancerous, and there are many different causes. As it turns out, it’s quite possible my spots would have gone away without treatment. After doing a bit of research, I find it interesting that one possible trigger is overexposure to the sun.1 I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn my early sunbathing habits contributed to this condition.

Things could have been different

I said all of that to say this, friends: I was an 80s kid. Skin checks were the furthest thing from my mind for many years. If I had it to do over now, I would have continued seeing a dermatologist once a year just to be on the safe side. Had I done that, I am confident I would have been given the “no tanning” speech in plenty of time to prevent much of the damage I have done to my body. My melanoma might never have come to be. Looking back, that first visit could have led to a much healthier me if I had let it.

What type of sun protection measures did you take in your childhood? Share with us in the comments!

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