Does fear affect your treatment choice?

At times, choosing among treatment options for psoriasis may seem like a dilemma. Nearly all medications come with upsides and potential downsides.

When making treatment decisions, patients should weigh the pros and cons of all options with his or her doctor, taking into consideration lifestyle, the severity of symptoms, family history, what has or has not worked in the past, insurance coverage and out-of-pocket costs as well as other pre-existing health conditions.

But one factor that should not play a role is fear of potential side effects. By talking frankly with doctors about concerns, patients can carefully weigh risks and benefits. Keeping these fears from influencing decisions can lead to a treatment plan that is more effective, easier to follow and that, ultimately, will lead to better results.

Things to keep in mind when making a treatment decision:

Each person responds differently to treatment

While stories of negative side effects may be just an Internet click away, it is important to remember that each person can respond to a treatment quite differently. Identify the benefits versus the risks of any treatment.

Medications are thoroughly tested

All prescription medications undergo years of rigorous study to ensure that the benefits of the treatment far outweigh any potential harm. While it is true that medications are sometimes recalled because of unforeseen side effects after Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, it is actually quite rare.

Fear can increase the likelihood of side effects

Ironically, some studies have shown that the fear of side effects can increase the likelihood that a person will actually experience them. For people with psoriasis, remaining calm and minimizing stress—a known psoriasis trigger—can relieve the worry.

Understand actual risk

There is no doubt that possible serious side effects such as cancer, a weakened immune system need to be considered, but it is also important to weigh the risks and benefits.

Reading statistics for adverse side effects can be tricky—misreading them might make a side effect risk seem greater than it actually is. For example, a medication with a 3 percent greater risk of side effects does not necessarily mean that three in every 100 people on a treatment will develop the complication. The percentage means that side effects occur 3 percent more often compared with people who are not taking the medication. For complications that are rare among the general population, the actual risk may be more like three in 100,000 or many times less.

Awareness of the role that fear of side effects is playing is important. By addressing fears head on and discussing them openly, doctors and patients can work together to choose treatments based on fact.

Learn more about the treatment options for psoriasis, their effectiveness and potential side effects »