6 Things Dermatologists Want You to Know About Psoriasis
Getting diagnosed with psoriasis can be a long, overwhelming experience. Research suggests that it can take, on average, two years from the time someone experiences their first symptoms to finally getting a diagnosis. For those with psoriatic arthritis, this timeline can be up to five years.
By the time you were diagnosed, you may have been dealing with frustrating and often painful symptoms for quite a while. To make matters even weightier, knowing you have a condition that’s chronic, that you’ll deal with for the rest of your life, can be difficult.
The good news is that a diagnosis means you can work with a board-certified dermatologist to find the right treatment. While there’s no cure for psoriasis, treatment and education can be incredibly successful at keeping those symptoms at bay.
A dermatologist is someone you can turn to for information and support as you work to manage your condition. So, we reached out to six dermatologists from around the country to find out what they wish everyone with psoriasis knew from the start.
1. Your Lifestyle Matters
Lily Talakoub, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at McLean Dermatology and Skincare Center in McLean, Virginia, says she reminds her patients that many of their symptoms can be eased with the right lifestyle choices.
“[A poor] diet and inflammatory foods, as well as inactivity, can have a huge impact on psoriasis and long-term heart health,” Talakoub says.
Inflammatory foods include high-sugar foods, junk or processed foods, and alcoholic beverages. For some people, these foods can cause inflammation in the body, which can lead to flares of psoriatic symptoms. Others may have sensitivities to certain foods, like gluten or dairy, which can trigger flare-ups. Often, avoiding certain foods for a few months and monitoring for symptoms can help a person identify whether something they ate could be a trigger for them.
Talakoub also stresses the importance of regular exercise. Just 20 minutes of moderate exercise can lower inflammation levels, according to a study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity in 2017.
2. Relief from Symptoms Is Available
Too many people with psoriasis wait to seek treatment and struggle with symptoms, says Scott Paviol, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Paviol Dermatology in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I wish everyone with psoriasis knew that we have so many options available to help them,” Paviol explains. “In my opinion, there is no reason for people to be struggling with moderate or severe psoriasis anymore. If you have psoriasis, please see a dermatologist so you can learn more about treatment options that can help.”
“Psoriasis is a multi-organ system inflammatory condition, and it is important to treat psoriasis appropriately so that you can live your most healthy life,” Paviol says.
3. Effective Treatment Isn’t Out of Reach
“I wish everyone knew that although it is a chronic condition with many triggers and associated flares, psoriasis can often be adequately managed with up-to-date, injectable biologic therapy,” says Anna Chacon, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Miami.
Biologic medications have a reputation for being effective for many people, but also for being costly. Chacon stresses that the treatment is available and may be more accessible than you realize.
“Many of these treatments are sufficient to manage skin lesions and arthritis with minimal [side effects] and associated costs,” she says. “They are covered by most insurance plans nowadays and should be fairly accessible to most with psoriasis through a board-certified dermatologist.”
Still, biologics may not be for everyone. Additional treatments include topical medications, oral medications, and phototherapy. When choosing a treatment plan, you should consider many factors, including your own personal preference and lifestyle. Having consistent communication and follow-up with your dermatologist will help you make the right choice that helps you get your psoriasis under control.
4. Your Mind and Body Are Connected
Rhonda Klein, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of Modern Dermatology in Westport, Connecticut, wants people to remember that, in addition to treating the disease, it’s essential to care for your mental health.
“It is important to work on your mindset as much as you're working on the physical manifestations of the disease,” Klein says.
“While research supports it, I have also personally seen it in my own patients—when they are taking great care of themselves holistically, they not only feel better, but their outbreaks are less frequent and severe,” she says. “Mindfulness, stress management, healthy diet, and exercise are critical to supporting the effectiveness of the medications and treatments that that science has given us.”
5. It’s Important to Care for Your Overall Health
Purvisha Patel, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Memphis and the creator of Visha Skincare, wants people with psoriasis to remember that psoriasis “is much bigger than just the skin.”
People with psoriasis are at higher risk for psoriatic arthritis, an inflammatory type of arthritis that affects the joints. Other conditions linked with psoriasis include depression, inflammatory bowel disease, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease.
“There is an increased level of inflammation in the body, and this can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and heart attacks,” explains Patel.
Therefore, Patel says dermatologists will often talk to their patients with psoriasis about other health concerns, in addition to skin irritation. It’s important to get regular checkups with your primary care physician and to see a specialist, such as a rheumatologist for joint pain, if you have any specific concerns.
6. It’s Important to Be Kind to Yourself
People with psoriasis often face challenges because of visible symptoms.
“So many of my patients talk about the stigma that comes with having psoriasis and its flare-ups,” says Ife Rodney, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics in Fulton, Maryland. “There is a misconception that psoriasis is contagious, and that people can catch the condition by touching others with it. These ill-conceived notions cause emotional stress. It affects people’s self-esteem, social status, and can really affect quality of life.”
Rodney wants people with psoriasis to know the importance of self-care and self-compassion. “I want everyone with psoriasis to know that there’s nothing wrong with them,” she says. “They can have fulfilling lives while managing the condition with the help of their dermatologist. Spend as much time on self-care as you do on keeping your flare-ups under control.”
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