5 Signs You Might Need to Change Your Psoriasis Doctor
If you aren't satisfied with your psoriasis treatment, you're not alone. Many patients believe their doctors aren't helping them.
By Elizabeth Shimer Bowers
Medically Reviewed by Ross Radusky, MD
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Anyone who has psoriasis knows how frustrating the condition can be.
An autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack its own skin cells, psoriasis leads to areas of thick, red, inflamed skin. Some people get a small patch now and then. Others are plagued with large body areas that are both uncomfortable and embarrassing.
No matter the severity of the condition, you should see a psoriasis doctor — a dermatologist who specializes in treating psoriasis. Although it isn't curable, it can be managed. And a good relationship between psoriasis doctor and patient can make the difference between a positive and negative psoriasis treatment outcome.
Still, many patients express anger and frustration because they feel their psoriasis doctors aren’t helping them. And it's not just online message boards that broadcast patients' beefs. Findings published in October 2013 in the journalJAMA Dermatologyfrom a survey conducted by the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) found that a surprisingly large number of people with psoriasis are unhappy with their treatment.
In the survey, which was led by researchers at the University of California in Davis, psoriasis patients answered questions about the effectiveness of their psoriasis medication (most were treated with topicals). The results showed that 52.3 percent were unhappy with their treatment.
A Better Doctor-Patient Relationship
Why such poor relationships between psoriasis doctors and patients?
“Some doctors stick with basic treatments for psoriasis and aren’t educated on or willing to try more aggressive treatments when they are required,” says James W. Swan, MD, professor of dermatology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and medical director of the patch testing program at Loyola Center for Health in La Grange, Illinois. There's a whole spectrum of psoriasis treatments, old and new, and they don’t all work for all people, he explains. Often, psoriasis doctors and patients must go through trial and error to find out what works.
Contentious relationships between psoriasis doctors and patients can also result when patients don’t wait long enough for a treatment to take effect. “Not all treatments work for all people with psoriasis, and some patients don’t stick with one doctor long enough to allow it to work,” Dr. Swan adds. That puts some onus on the patients, as well.
All that being said, a positive rapport between psoriasis doctor and patient remains very important. The best patient-doctor relationship is like a partnership, where both people communicate openly with each other, and there's a feeling of trust. If you've given it due time and still feel your psoriasis doctor isn't helping, you have the right to move on.
Here are five signs it may be time to change psoriasis doctors:
1. Your doctor isn't as aggressive as you'd like.“If your psoriasis doctor says there is nothing he or she can do, or tries the same treatments over and over again, it may be time to look for a new provider,” Swan says. “On the flip side, if he or she is willing to abandon a treatment that isn’t working and go another step to the next treatment level, that is a very good sign.”
2. The doctor doesn’t listen to you.If your psoriasis doctor provides the same treatments and advice no matter what you tell him or her, or seems not to be listening when you talk, it may be time to look for someone else. “Psoriasis can affect many different body parts, and different locations can require different treatments,” Swan says. It’s important for your psoriasis doctor to listen and get things right.
3. Your doctor is in and out of the exam room.“Some psoriasis doctors see large volumes of patients,” Swan says. As a result, some cut their appointments short. If you think the brevity of face time with your psoriasis doctor is affecting your quality of care, you're justified in looking for someone else.
4. The doctor isn’t up to date with the latest treatments.“If a psoriasis doctor doesn’t have updated treatment tools in the office, such as the latest phototherapy equipment, it may be a sign it’s time to make a change,” Swan says.
5. Your doctor has a less-than-stellar record.Boards of medicine are there to make sure doctors are doing their jobs. To see if your psoriasis doctor is in good standing, check your state’s board of medicine. You can find information about state medical boards online.
How to Change Psoriasis Doctors
If you’ve determined your psoriasis doctor isn’t helping you deal with the condition, what comes next? There’s no real secret to changing your psoriasis doctor — you can simply tell the doctor that you're going to look for care with another provider. Or skip the awkward conversation and just call and have your records transferred elsewhere.
To start the process of looking for a new psoriasis doctor, Swan suggests you talk to family members, friends, and neighbors and ask if they can recommend a good dermatologist with special interest in treating psoriasis.
“You can also ask your primary care doctor for another referral,” he says.
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