A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of the skin, scalp, mucous membranes, hair and nails.
When should I see a dermatologist?
Working closely with a dermatologist is an important part of diagnosing and managing your psoriasis. If possible, the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) recommends that all people living with psoriasis see a dermatologist. It’s especially important to find a dermatologist who has experience treating psoriasis if:
- Your disease is flaring or you are experiencing worsening of your symptoms.
- The treatment(s) recommended by your primary care provider (also called a “PCP” or general practitioner) are not working.
- You are interested in trying treatments that your PCP is not familiar with, such as biologics, oral treatments or phototherapy.
Some people may have limited access to a dermatologist because of where they live or their insurance plan. In these situations, you should see a primary care provider to manage your psoriasis. You can also explore an option called telemedicine, the use of electronic communication, such as a smartphone or computer, to provide health care services between patients and health care providers who are at a distance.
How do I discuss my symptoms?
Psoriasis affects everyone differently. Common symptoms include the development of painful lesions, itch, fatigue and changes in the nails.
Your dermatologist will begin by asking you questions about your symptoms. To prepare, it’s helpful to track your symptoms so you can best discuss them with your dermatologist. Remember, be as clear and specific as possible!
- Be sure to explain how intense each symptom is. You may want to use a scale from 0 to 10, in which 0 is no symptom and 10 is extreme intensity.
- Discuss where you experience each symptom.
- Explain how long each symptom has been present.
- Make sure that your dermatologist understands how your symptoms change over time.
Next, your dermatologist will conduct a physical exam to look at specific sites where psoriasis can occur. This is the best way for your dermatologist to understand your unique symptoms and recommend the right treatment for you.
How do I decide on a treatment with my dermatologist?
Your dermatologist will recommend treatments based on:
- The severity of your disease
- Your health history and overall health
- Your experience with previous treatments
In 2016, the NPF Medical Board published defined psoriasis treatment targets to help you know what to expect from your treatments and assess if your current treatment is successful. You and your dermatologist can use these targets to see if your treatment is meeting your goals or determine if an adjustment is appropriate.
Remember, finding the treatment that provides the most relief may take time! Continue to work closely with your dermatologist to ensure your treatment goals are being met, as your symptoms may change over time.