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December 2017

What’s in a Name—Dermoscopy vs Dermatoscopy

Author Affiliations
  • 1The Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, New York University School of Medicine, New York
  • 2Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(12):1235. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.3905

Dermoscopy improves diagnostic accuracy by uncovering dimensions of skin morphologic characteristics imperceptible to the naked eye. While the practice of dermoscopy has become common among dermatologists only in recent years, microscopic examination of the skin is actually a centuries-old practice.

Skin surface microscopy was first used in the mid-17th century by Peter Borelus and Johan Christophorus Kolhaus, primarily for examination of nailfold capillaries. In the early 20th century, Otfried Müller built portable monocular and binocular microscopes more easily used for clinical practice. A German dermatologist, Johann Saphier, first coined the term dermatoscopy in 1920 and outlined the possible clinical applications of skin surface microscopy. While Saphier used this practice primarily for the investigation of small skin vessels, he broadened its use to melanocytic nevi and introduced the term globules.1