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Culinary Metaphors in Dermatology Eating Our Words

Emily C. Milam, BA1; Euphemia W. Mu, MD1; Seth J. Orlow, MD, PhD1
[+] Author Affiliations
1The Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, New York University School of Medicine, New York
JAMA Dermatol. 2015;151(8):912. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.5416.
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Culinary allusions are abundant in medicine, which boasts a descriptive buffet of visual signs and findings. With over 450 analogies documented in the medical literature,1 those pertaining to food are the most plentiful.2,3

Dermatologists especially relish culinary analogies. Food helps us describe color—as in port-wine stains, café au lait macules, and honey-colored crusts of impetigo—and texture—including cauliflower ears, peau d’orange skin, and the cheesy exudate of thrush. Gustatory aromas pervade as well, such as in the sweet, grape-like scent of pseudomonal infections or the smell of stale beer in scrofula. We often use food analogies in instructing patients—for example, to apply a pea-sized amount or a grain-of-rice worth. From the breakfast, lunch, and dinner bedbug bites to the tapioca-like vesicles of dyshidrosis, every meal and food group is covered.

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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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