Psoriasis is a chronic condition, so your dermatologist is going to be a lifelong partner in your quest for skin clearance. It’s important to spend the extra time you need to find the right one. Your primary care doctor may have some recommendations, or you may choose to ask around or search online for dermatologists near you.
Here are eight tips you should consider as you begin your search for a dermatologist.
1. They should have experience with many psoriasis patients
A dermatologist is a skin specialist, but not all dermatologists see patients with psoriasis. On top of that, there are five different types of psoriasis, and each case varies in severity. You may wish to find a narrowly focused dermatologist who really understands your particular type of psoriasis.
About 15 percent of people with psoriasis also develop psoriatic arthritis. This type of arthritis causes swelling, pain, and inflammation in affected joints. If that’s the case for you, you may want to consider a dermatologist with experience in treating patients who have both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. You’ll likely need to find a dermatologist who can work alongside your rheumatologist.
2. They should be close by
If you can, try to find a dermatologist who isn’t more than a 20- to 30-minute drive away. This makes it less likely that you’ll have to cancel your appointments last minute when something comes up. It also makes it easier to fit appointments into your busy schedule. As well, if you need to have treatments on a regular basis such as light therapy, it will be more convenient.
A dermatologist close to where you work means that you might even be able to schedule appointments during your lunch break. Don’t underestimate the convenience of having a doctor close by.
3. Their schedule should align with yours
Like most people, you’re probably really busy. Between work, school, picking up the kids, preparing food, and having time for a social life, fitting in an appointment with your dermatologist can be tough. If you’re the type of person who can barely spare 15 minutes during the work week, consider a dermatologist who offers weekend or evening appointments.
4. They should accept your insurance
As you probably already know, medical bills can add up fast when you have a chronic condition. Check with the dermatology office before you book an appointment to make sure your insurance plan will cover all of your visits and treatments.
Your insurance company might have a search function on its website so you can search for doctors in its network.
5. They should be easy to reach
Everyone has a different preference for communication these days. For some, email is the best way to reach them. For others, a phone call is the only way you can get in touch.
You may love the convenience of being able to text your dermatologist’s office when you have a question, or the speed of being able to schedule your appointments online. Or you might not have a preference at all. You should consider whether your dermatologist’s mode of communication aligns with your individual needs.
6. They should be up to date with clinical trials and the latest treatments
Your dermatologist should be familiar with the commonly accepted treatments and keep you informed. It’s also important that you take some time to familiarize yourself with all of the available treatment options so you have an idea of what to expect during your visit.
You might not always be eligible for a clinical trial of new treatments in your area, but it’s comforting to have a dermatologist who is aware of the latest research. You won’t have to worry that you’ll miss out on the latest treatments.
As an added bonus, finding a dermatologist who participates directly in clinical trials for psoriasis is a great sign that they are fully invested in treating it.
7. Their practice should align with your desired treatment approach
Your dermatologist is responsible for making the final call on what medications to prescribe, but you do have some say in your preferences. Even experts don’t agree on which psoriasis medications should be tried first. A lot of times, it depends on your individual case.
For example, you may have other health problems that make some of the medications inappropriate, or you may want to try the newest treatment options first. Or perhaps you want to find a treatment option that you don’t have to take every day. Your dermatologist should be open to discussing your preferences and working with you to arrive at a treatment plan.
8. They should be interested in your life
A dermatologist experienced in treating psoriasis patients should understand that lifestyle factors play a role in the disease, and that the disease itself can have a huge impact on your quality of life. At your visit, the dermatologist should be asking questions about your day-to-day life. These questions may include:
- How much stress are you under?
- Are you depressed or anxious at times?
- How much does your psoriasis impact your quality of life?
- What treatments have you already tried?
- Do you know of anything in your diet or lifestyle that triggers a flare-up?
- Do you have a support system or need help finding a support group?
- Do you have any dietary limitations?
- Do you drink alcohol or smoke?
- Are you planning on getting pregnant soon?
- Have you tried any supplements?
- What are your biggest fears when it comes to treating psoriasis?
If the dermatologist doesn’t ask you some of these questions, it may not be a good fit.
Other things to consider
Don’t be afraid to shop around for a dermatologist who specializes in treating psoriasis. Location, knowledge, experience, and insurance are all incredibly important, but you should also think about what you personally want in a dermatologist. Here are some other things to consider:
- Do you want a doctor who opts for more aggressive treatments or one who takes a less aggressive approach?
- Do you want a dermatologist who also has access to other types of specialists (like nutritionists and mental health experts) in house?
- Do you want a dermatologist with lots of knowledge about complementary and alternative treatments?
- Do you have other medical conditions and want a dermatologist who understands them?
- Does the office’s personality (professional, laid-back, modern) fit with yours?
You can ask these questions during your initial appointment. If you find that a particular dermatologist doesn’t meet your needs, move on to a different one until you find the right fit.