Sponsored by AbbVie
Hi, I’m Dr. April Armstrong. I’ve been treating psoriasis patients for 10 years.
One of the most important steps in managing psoriasis is finding a dermatologist that’s right for you. Sometimes it takes some trial and error, and I’ve had many psoriasis patients go through their fair share of doctors and dermatologists before they come to me. To help, I’m going to share a few clues to look for when searching for a dermatologist.
First, it’s important to know that there’s a difference between a family doctor and a doctor who specializes in treating skin conditions, known as a dermatologist. Your family doctor is who you see when you have the flu, or for a check-up, or when you have an injury. But if you need more specialized attention, then your doctor will send you to see a specialist. For example, most doctors will be able to identify those red, flaky patches on your skin as psoriasis, but they may not have extensive experience with psoriasis patients. So they’ll send you on to a dermatologist—someone like me.
But, there are different kinds of dermatologists, too. The skin is the largest organ of your body, and that leaves dermatologists with lots of areas to specialize in, ranging all the way from cosmetic improvements to treating skin cancer. So even though they are skin specialists, not all dermatologists routinely treat psoriasis. So how do you know if your dermatologist has psoriasis experience? Here are 4 clues you can listen for.
A good dermatologist will explain that psoriasis is a complex immune disease that begins inside your body. A dermatologist with a lot of psoriasis experience should make sure you know that psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory skin disease. So even if your symptoms come and go, your psoriasis never goes away, and it can come back at any time.
Your dermatologist should take a good look at your skin during each appointment to see if your plaques are improving. But they should also ask you if you’ve noticed any differences in your symptoms since the last time you met. After all, you spend a lot more time looking at your skin than your doctor does.
A good dermatologist will also ask if you’re feeling any pain in your joints. If your doctor screens for joint pain, which could be a sign of psoriatic arthritis, then your doctor may also have experience treating psoriasis.
If you’re seeing a new dermatologist, he or she should ask what treatments you’ve taken in the past, and what you’re currently on, including any over-the-counter products, like ointments or oils.
A good dermatologist knows there are several kinds of treatments out there, from topicals to phototherapy to systemics. They’ll know all the differences between the options and they’ll customize how they manage your psoriasis to your unique needs. No matter what your treatment plan, they should also discuss how to care for your psoriasis on a day-to-day basis.
If you’re not seeing any changes in your symptoms, your dermatologist may adjust your treatment plan. If your doctor hasn’t been willing to adjust your treatment plan, and you’re still not happy with your skin, you may not be getting the care you need.
Lastly, dermatologists who treat psoriasis know that it can affect more than just your skin; it affects your day-to-day life. Having psoriasis can make patients feel embarrassed, or self-conscious, and it’s really important for doctors to know how your psoriasis is affecting you. If your doctor doesn’t talk about your feelings along with your psoriasis symptoms with you, then there’s a good chance you may want to find another dermatologist who’s more comfortable treating and discussing your psoriasis.
So if you’re looking for a dermatologist, remember:
- Your family doctor is not a dermatologist.
- Not all dermatologists routinely treat psoriasis.
- And be sure to listen for the clues.
If you’re not getting the care you need for your psoriasis, it’s okay to ask for a referral to another doctor. A good relationship with your doctor is important. It’s your health. What’s important is finding a dermatologist that’s right for you.
The first step in managing your psoriasis is finding a dermatologist who is right for you.
Sponsored by AbbVie
I think it's very important that a patient with psoriasis sees somebody who has an interest in psoriasis, understands his or her disease, and knows how to treat it appropriately. Just going to a store and picking up a tube of cream and hoping that it's going to help their psoriasis is not really going to do very much. There are experts in the field of psoriasis, nationally and internationally, and I think it's very important that a psoriasis patient gets educated about his or her disease, learns what's going on, and then seeks out a professional that can be sympathetic, empathetic, and treat them accordingly.
When patients first come in to see us with their psoriasis, we discuss not only the physical attributes of psoriasis, what it looks like, is it itching, is it burning. We also talk about how it affects a patient emotionally.
So we try to go through how this impacts them on a day-to-day basis and it's interesting to me that when I ask that question, often, they say “No one has ever asked me that question before,” and tears well up, because it affects them so significantly in different, different ways.
To manage psoriasis adequately I do believe you need a team approach. You need to bring the family into it, family needs to understand the disease in addition to the patient understanding, the staff who's treating their patient must be understanding, and it's got to be a collective understanding of the disease so that everybody is focused on the correct treatment not just for the-short term but for the long-term. I think it's very important to make patients comfortable with not only the disease but the treatment of the disease, so we do discuss all aspects of treatment, the different, four different varieties of treatment (creams and ointments, light treatment, oral medicines, injectable medicines). So it's vitally important that we educate them about all the pros and cons and I don't make the decision, I make the decision in concert with the patient.
Learn why it’s important to work with a dermatologist to manage your psoriasis.
Dr. Menter is chairman of the Division of Dermatology at a prominent U.S. academic medical center. Dr. Menter is also a paid consultant of AbbVie.
When speaking with your dermatologist, it's important to have an honest dialogue. Your dermatologist should understand the full impact psoriasis has on your life, both physically and emotionally.