4 Important Things to Know If You Have a Psoriasis Comorbidity
About 125 million people worldwide are living with psoriasis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. And many of them are also dealing with other health concerns. In fact, having psoriasis puts you at higher risk of having other chronic conditions.
“Psoriasis is a multiorgan, chronic, autoinflammatory condition that affects much more than our skin,” explains Scott Paviol, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at PHC Paviol Dermatology in Charlotte, North Carolina. “There is more and more emerging data that link psoriasis with psoriatic arthritis, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, lymphoma, uveitis, and psychiatric disorders,” he says, including depression and anxiety.
If you’re dealing with health issues that go beyond your psoriasis, there are some important things you should know that can help you to manage all your conditions and to better work with your doctors to help you find the best and safest treatments to keep your total health in check.
Paying Close Attention to Your Symptoms Is Essential
If you have a comorbidity, you’re likely dealing with recurrent chronic symptoms beyond your psoriasis. These symptoms may flare with your skin disease or they may flare on their own. Depending on your comorbidity, you may experience joint pain, diarrhea, constipation, eye pain, eye redness, or blurred vision, says Adam Luber, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at U.S. Dermatology Partners in Phoenix, Arizona.
It’s important to get checked out if you’re experiencing any new, persistent symptoms. If you get diagnosed with a comorbidity, you should regularly see a healthcare provider who specializes in treating that condition—in addition to the doctor who’s treating your psoriasis.
For instance, Paviol explains that untreated psoriatic arthritis can cause permanent damage to a person’s joints, so it’s important joint pain is evaluated, diagnosed, and treated as quickly as possible, before too much damage can occur.
“In addition, people with psoriasis are at a higher risk for heart attacks, diabetes, kidney and liver disease, as well,” says Paviol. “It really requires a team approach and a long-term treatment plan to best help the patient.”
Your Comorbidity Can Affect Your Psoriasis
Most of these comorbid conditions require medical monitoring and intervention. “It’s important to remember that these other medical conditions can impact psoriasis in a direct manner,” says Luber. A flare of any comorbidity can make your psoriasis flare, as well.
Your Treatments Should Complement Each Other
Make sure all your doctors know all the conditions you’ve been diagnosed with, as well as what treatments you’re undergoing for each condition. Your whole health history should be taken into account when your doctors are helping you choose treatment options.
“Comorbidities play a significant role in choosing safe psoriasis therapies for patients,” explains Luber. “Some medications are contraindicated with certain medical conditions or have significant adverse drug-drug interactions to be aware of.”
So, doctors need the full picture in order to find the ideal treatment for each condition in tandem with the others. For example, “If you have psoriatic arthritis, your doctor will be more likely to pursue a systemic treatment option to treat inflammation inside your body as well as on your skin,” says Paviol. “Your dermatologist will also likely make sure you get established with a rheumatologist, so your joint involvement can be followed more closely.”
Sometimes, finding the best treatment option may mean determining which medications can help combat multiple conditions at once.
You Can and Should Be Your Own Advocate
When you’re seeing multiple specialists for multiple conditions, it’s important those doctors communicate with each other, says Luber, so you can get the best medical care possible.
It can be helpful to see specialists who work within the same healthcare system, so they can easily share progress notes and diagnostic data, says Paviol. But even if doctors aren’t in the same system, you can ask your doctors to fax records to each other, so everyone is on the same page regarding your medical health.
It’s also a good idea to keep your own records and help manage communication between your specialists. If you’re in search for a specialist for a specific condition, ask your dermatologist for recommendations to help you find one. If this person is recommended by your dermatologist, they’re likely already in communication with each other.
“I am a big fan of being your biggest advocate,” says Paviol. “Believe it or not, you can really play a big part in the treatment success of your own condition.”
He suggests keeping a list of all your medications—ones you’re on now and ones you’ve taken in the past—what’s worked and what hasn’t, and which medications you’ve had an adverse reaction to in the past. Bring this information with you to your appointments, so it’s readily available to you and your team of doctors.
It may seem complicated, at first, but as time goes on, you’ll get used to managing communication between your specialists and maintaining records of your treatment plans. And by doing so, you can help to keep yourself healthy, which is really a pretty powerful thing when you think about it.
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