Dubai doctor creates guide to variations in skin conditions depending on skin colour

Differences can lead to delays in diagnosis, as textbooks traditionally use white skin as an example

Dr Haider Ali has written a reference book to show how dermatological conditions can appear in people with different skin tones. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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A British GP who recently moved to the UAE has written a reference book to show how dermatological conditions can appear in people with different skin tones.

Dr Haider Ali said white skin has traditionally been used as an example in textbooks, but skin conditions look different in people with different skin tones, which can lead to delays in diagnosis.

He spent a year creating his own guide, featuring 35 cases, with pictures of how they look side by side in white and darker skin, alongside a description of how to manage the condition.

Quote
We know that in people of colour, the time for diagnosing things like skin cancer is much delayed. And that leads to a very poor clinical outcome
Dr Haider Ali

The e-book has not been published but he shares it via WeTransfer on request.

“We know that in people of colour, the time for diagnosing things like skin cancer is much delayed. And that leads to a very poor clinical outcome,” said Dr Ali, who works at The Clinic by Medcare in The Meadows, Dubai.

“Even melanoma presents in areas you wouldn’t expect in a person with a darker skin tone. For example, in a Caucasian person, it is usually on a forearm or a sun-exposed area.

“But in an Afro-Caribbean person, they are getting it on the soles of their feet or the toenails.”

Dr Ali, who moved to the UAE from the UK three months ago, got the idea during the pandemic, which saw a rise in dermatological conditions due to Covid-19.

Dr Haider Ali spent a year creating his own guide, featuring 35 cases, with pictures of how they look side by side in white and darker skin, alongside a description of how to manage the condition. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“Covid affected everyone. It also caused outbreaks of a number of skin conditions, from things like chilblains, which we are familiar with in the UK due to our weather,” said the doctor, who has a diploma in dermatology.

“When they appear with those with lighter skin tones, in a Caucasian person or even in an Arab like myself — as I am genetically Arab — you can spot it quite readily.

“And I thought, gosh, my colleagues were really struggling, through no fault of their own to even recognise chilblains, which was super common.”

Dr Ali set about putting together the reference guide, using freely available resources, for healthcare professionals.

The work, coupled with fund-raising during the pandemic, earned him a meeting with British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

Having moved over to the UAE, he is keen to raise awareness of the guide here.

“My interest lies in medical education,” he said.

“So, I applied to Mohammed Bin Rashid University Of Medicine and Health Sciences ... and someone said, 'Oh Dr Ali, we use your book as part of our teaching material.' It is funny because I'd never sent it to them.

Dr Ali said social media has helped generate interest in his book.

“I think if you have a very successful Instagram account you can put a link up, if you have more than 10,000 followers. So, I am kind of reliant on word of mouth."

People interested in a free copy can write to Haider.Ali@medcarehospital.com or @health_fitness_doc on Instagram.

Updated: March 17, 2022, 6:32 AM
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