If you’ve noticed an itchy, scaly rash, your first step is probably to schedule an appointment with your doctor. While you may see your primary care doctor first, they may refer you to a dermatologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating skin conditions. So what can you expect at your first psoriasis appointment with this type of skin specialist?
Learning About Your Symptoms
One of the first things the dermatologist will likely ask is what brings you to their office. They’ll want to know more about your symptoms and how they affect you. Do you have a rash? Is it itchy or scaly? Where on your body is it located?
These clues help the doctor make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan. So before your appointment, track your symptoms, especially physical changes. Some may even be unrelated to your skin, like joint pain.
Recording Your Family and Health History
Psoriasis is mainly an immune system condition where skin cells grow faster than expected. Experts aren’t sure of the exact cause, but your family history can also play a role. If you have a parent, grandparent, or sibling who has it, you’re more likely to as well. It’s also possible that your immune system changes in response to a trigger. Things that have a link to psoriasis include:
- Illness, especially strep infections
- Skin injury
Expect your dermatologist to ask whether your parents have psoriasis or if you’ve been exposed to known psoriasis triggers.
Examining Your Skin, Scalp, and Nails
Next, the dermatologist will take a look at your skin, scalp, and nails. During a biopsy test, they may also remove a small section of skin to look at under a microscope.
The goal is to figure out whether a different condition is causing your symptoms. Some other conditions have similar symptoms, including lupus, eczema, lymphoma, dandruff, and ringworm. If you have psoriasis, a biopsy will also help determine the form of the condition. Unlike some other illnesses, doctors can’t diagnose psoriasis with a blood test.
Discussing Your Psoriasis Treatment Options
Psoriasis is a lifelong disease that comes and goes in cycles. Pain from the condition can disrupt your sleep and ability to focus. There’s no cure for psoriasis, but you can manage it with treatment.
At your first appointment with a dermatologist, they may discuss your treatment options. The doctor will take into account how serious your condition is, how well any past treatments have worked, and other home remedies you’ve tried. It’s possible you’ll try different medications or a mix of drugs to find the right one for you.
Treatments include medications you apply to your skin (topicals), light therapy, and drugs you inject or take by mouth. Each of them aims to slow skin cell growth and clear your skin.
Before you get a prescription, expect to share with the dermatologist the medications you’re currently taking, including over-the-counter and prescription medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements.
Mayo Clinic: “Psoriasis.”
National Psoriasis Foundation: “About Psoriasis,” “Dermatologist,” “Causes and Triggers.”
Canadian Psoriasis Network: “Prepare For Your Appointment.”
National Institute on Aging: “How to Prepare for a Doctor's Appointment.”