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Finding the Right Dermatologist for Psoriasis: One Woman’s Story
- By Diana Rodriguez
- Reviewed by Farrokh Sohrabi, MD
One thing you can’t take with you when you relocate is your dermatologist. After three cross-country moves, Sabrina Skiles knows how to pick the right skin expert.
Sabrina Skiles, a blogger and social media pro, has been dealing with psoriasis since she was a junior in high school. Now 29, her psoriasis symptoms are well under control — most of the time she just has patches on her elbows and scalp. Skiles mentors others with psoriasis, and she says their first question is always about how to manage psoriasis symptoms. Her answer is always the same: “Find the right dermatologist.” Skiles has had to follow her own advice as she’s moved around the country.
On the Move With Psoriasis
Skiles was lucky to have been treated by a knowledgeable dermatologist as soon as she spotted her first psoriasis symptoms. But when she needed a doctor while living in Hawaii, she was back to square one.
Skiles and her now-husband were planning their wedding in Maui when the stress of the event caused her psoriasis to flare. “There weren’t a lot of dermatology practices to choose from,” she says. The doctor she chose didn’t take the time to examine her past and current medications or to find out how satisfied she was with her treatments . She felt rushed during office visits.
Then she and her husband moved to Seattle. Between the stress of the move and the rainy climate, her psoriasis symptoms began to flare once again and she was on the hunt for a new dermatologist. She found a skin specialist who introduced her to light therapy ( phototherapy ), which worked wonders for her. She also had a great experience with a doctor who sat down with her to talk about her quality of life and what worked and what didn’t in managing her psoriasis.
Expanding Her Psoriasis Team
Today, Skiles lives in Houston, where she recently started seeing another new dermatologist. That doctor suggested that Skiles also begin working with a rheumatologist to monitor her for the development of psoriatic arthritis , a chronic disease — marked by joint inflammation that causes pain, stiffness, and restricted motion — which can occur as a complication of psoriasis. Skiles feels lucky, though, that she’s not showing any signs of psoriatic arthritis and has a knowledgeable team to help keep her healthy. As many as 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, and working with a dermatologist who has experience in managing psoriasis can help spot early symptoms of complications and get prompt treatment.
“A dermatologist might be able to diagnose psoriatic arthritis before it reaches the point of disability,” says Jerry Bagel, MD, a dermatologist in private practice at Windsor Dermatology in East Windsor, N.J.
Finding the Right Dermatologist for You
Dr. Bagel recommends using the National Psoriasis Foundation website to find an experienced dermatologist to treat your psoriasis. You can search by zip code to find dermatologists affiliated with the National Psoriasis Foundation. There’s also a group called the President’s Council, which is comprised of psoriasis specialists.
To find the right a dermatologist for you, ask the right questions, Bagel says. He offers these tips:
Once you decide on a dermatologist, get the most out of your psoriasis care by coming to office visits prepared with your medical history, which should include current and past prescriptions and treatments, hospitalizations, and any other pertinent medical information.
Skiles is a firm believer in developing a collaborative relationship with your dermatologist by being an educated patient. Ask questions about any aspects of psoriasis you don’t understand and talk about your quality of life. “Diet, lifestyle, stress — anything and everything should be brought up, because you just don’t know what could be tied to your psoriasis flares,” she says.
“Dermatologists who know about psoriasis know that it’s not just an outer surface disease, but that there’s a lot more going on with your body,” Skiles says. “The right doctors will take the time to understand you. If they don’t, that’s your cue to find another doctor.”
Last Updated: 6/20/2014
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