Author: Dr Amanda Oakley MBChB FRACP, Dept of Dermatology Waikato Hospital, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2004.

What is dermoscopy?

Dermoscopy or dermatoscopy refers to the examination of the skin using skin surface microscopy, and is also called ‘epiluminoscopy’ and ‘epiluminescent microscopy’. Derm(at)oscopy is mainly used to evaluate pigmented skin lesions. In experienced hands it can make it easier to diagnose melanoma.

Dermoscopy requires a high quality magnifying lens and a powerful lighting system (a dermatoscope). This allows examination of skin structures and patterns. There are several different lightweight, battery-powered hand-held devices. Convenient attachments allow video or still photography, including via smartphone.

Computer software can be used to archive dermoscopy images and allow expert diagnosis and reporting (mole mapping). Smart programs may aid in diagnosis by comparing the new image with stored cases with typical features of benign and malignant pigmented skin lesions.

Dermatoscopic features of pigmented lesions

Using dermoscopy, the pigmentation of the lesion is evaluated in terms of colour(s) and structure.

Colours found in pigmented skin lesions include black, brown, red, blue, grey, yellow and white.                        

Characteristics of the dermatoscopic structure of the skin lesions include:

There are specific dermoscopic patterns that aid in the diagnosis of the following pigmented skin lesions:

Dermoscopy may also be used for detailed skin surface examination in some other circumstances, for example:

Related information

Email Newsletter

Would you like to receive our dermatology updates by email?


Submit your images

We're seeking high-quality photos of skin diseases.  


Machine diagnosis

Watch DermNet's proposal to create a 'Skin Disease Image Recognition Tool' - winner of the 2017 'Clinicians' Challenge Active Award' by the NZ Ministry of Health and HiNZ.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
DermNet NZ Newsletter