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Living With Psoriasis: Tips for Family and Friends

Living with psoriasis can be tough -- not just for the person with the diagnosis, but for his or her loved ones too. It's a condition that can affect entire families, both emotionally and sometimes financially.

If you have a friend or family member with psoriasis, you may want to help but don't know where to start.  Here's some advice.  

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Tests to Diagnose Psoriasis

In most cases, your primary care doctor or dermatologist will be able to diagnose psoriasis by examining your skin. However, since psoriasis can look like eczema and other skin diseases, diagnosing it can sometimes be difficult. If your doctor isn't sure whether you have psoriasis, he or she may order a biopsy. Your doctor will remove a small sample of your skin and have it looked at under a microscope. If you have symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, such as swollen and painful joints, your doctor...

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  • Learn about the psoriasis.  Start with the basics. If you have a loved one living with psoriasis, it's important that you really know about it -- the symptoms, the causes, and psoriasis treatments.
  • Ask loved ones with psoriasis what they need.  Don't make assumptions about what sort of help psoriasis patients want. Ask. Do they need someone to tag along to doctors' appointments or help evaluate treatment options? Do they want someone who will listen? Or just someone who will make them laugh -- and not mention the word "psoriasis" once?
  • Encourage your loved one to get psoriasis treatment. Lots of people living with psoriasis get frustrated with treatments that haven't worked and give up completely. While that's understandable, it's not a good idea. The vast majority of cases can be controlled. So if your loved one has stopped seeing a doctor, urge him or her to try again -- perhaps with a new dermatologist who has expertise in treating the condition.
  • Be positive, but not pushy.  Lots of people living with psoriasis start to pull back from life, to isolate themselves. If you can, try to intervene. Encourage your loved one to stay connected with friends and do the things that he or she enjoys. But do it gently. If you try to force your loved one into doing things he or she is not ready to do, that person could just become anxious and upset.
  • Reduce stress around the household.  Stress is a known trigger for psoriasis. Obviously, no one's home can ever be stress-free. But talk to your loved one about things you could do to lower his or her stress level.Maybe swapping some responsibilities or allowing that person to have extra time to rest could be a good way of offering psoriasis support.
  • Treat signs of depression seriously.  Depression and psoriasis can go together. One study showed that one out of four people living with psoriasis were also depressed.Since depression is a serious illness, don't ignore any signs -- like persistent sadness or loss of interest in daily activities. Encourage your loved one to see a doctor or a therapist as soon as possible.
  • Don't take on too much.  Obviously, your loved one needs your help and support right now. But if your loved one is an adult, you shouldn't take on all the responsibility yourself. If you take charge of every aspect of that person's life and treatment, you'll wind up worn out and resented. Remember, your job isn't to take care of your loved one; it's to help that person take care of himself.
  • Take care of yourself.  Caring for someone with a debilitating condition can be draining. It's important that you maintain your own life too, something distinct for yourself. If your loved one has become more reclusive, you still need to stay connected. Take time to go out with friends and do things you like to do. If you start to feel overburdened, ask other friends or family members to pitch in. And if you're getting seriously overwhelmed, check in with a therapist. Running yourself ragged won't help either you or your loved one in the long-term.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Norman Levine, MD on May 15, 2012

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