Psoriasis can be a tricky illness to treat without help from doctors and other medical professionals. It’s a lifelong skin and immune system disease that also carries a chance of forming other health conditions like psoriatic arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression.
Managing psoriasis means learning your triggers, finding the right treatment plan and skin care routine, and making lifestyle changes. Your health care team is a critical part of keeping psoriasis under control. Here’s a closer look at the professionals you may visit and their role in treating psoriasis.
Primary Care Provider
What’s a primary care provider?
If you think you have a medical condition such as psoriasis, the first person you’ll likely visit is your primary care provider or regular doctor. You may also know them as a PCP, primary care physician, or general practitioner. PCPs help to treat short-term diseases, as well as long-term ones like psoriasis.
How do primary care providers treat psoriasis?
Your primary care provider will guide you toward a treatment plan to help manage psoriasis. They may prescribe creams or ointments that you apply to your skin, light therapy, or medicines you take by mouth or inject. They’ll probably first suggest a mild treatment and work up to stronger ones if your skin doesn’t clear up.
Your PCP may also talk with you about lifestyle changes to keep your psoriasis under control. These can be things like learning and managing your triggers, staying active, watching what you eat, and cutting back on alcohol.
You’ll also visit your PCP for checkups so they can check and treat you for other illnesses linked to psoriasis. These include conditions like psoriatic arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. They may refer you to a specialist such as a dermatologist or a rheumatologist.
Advanced Practice Provider
What’s an advanced practice provider?
An advanced practice provider (APP) is another type of primary care provider. You probably know them as physician assistants or nurse practitioners. They carry out many of the same tasks as a doctor. APPs must earn at least a master’s degree and go through demanding real-world education and training in a health care setting.
How do advanced practice providers treat psoriasis?
APPs examine patients, order tests to help diagnose psoriasis, create treatment plans, and prescribe medicine. They can also serve as your ongoing health care provider.
What’s a pharmacist?
If your general doctor or advanced practice provider prescribes medicine to treat your psoriasis, this means you’ll see a pharmacist. They prepare and supply the drug you’ll use to manage your condition.
How do pharmacists treat psoriasis?
Pharmacists make sure that you take the correct dosage of your prescription and that you can take it safely with other medications. They’ll also offer general education about the drug. Some pharmacists may also suggest over-the-counter treatments for psoriasis, like Epsom salts, moisturizers, anti-itch creams, and medicated shampoos.
Other Primary Care Providers
These other health professionals could also be part of your psoriasis primary care team:
Physical therapist. Psoriasis may trigger joint changes and stiffness. A physical therapist helps improve and preserve your range of motion with movement and exercise.
Occupational therapist. An occupational therapist can offer guidance if day-to-day activities cause pain or stiffness. They’ll suggest changes to your home and work environment, alternative ways to do daily tasks, and special equipment to make tasks easier.
Secondary Care Providers
What is a secondary care provider?
These are health care professionals with expert knowledge in a specific area of medicine. Your primary care provider may refer you to a specialist if a suggested treatment doesn’t clear your skin or if you want to try a treatment they’re not used to prescribing.
What is a dermatologist?
A dermatologist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats conditions of the skin, scalp, hair, and nails.
How do dermatologists treat psoriasis?
First, they’ll examine your skin, nails, and scalp to look for clues that you may have psoriasis. They’ll also ask about your symptoms, any joint issues, family members diagnosed with psoriasis, and life changes. It’s also possible that they’ll remove a small section of skin to look at under a microscope.
If the dermatologist determines you have psoriasis, they’ll create a treatment plan just for you. Depending on how serious your condition is, treatment could involve:
- Medicines you take by mouth or injection
- Medications you apply to your skin (topicals)
- Light therapy
- Home remedies, such as moisturizers, bathing with oatmeal, or Epsom salt baths
You’ll continue to visit a dermatologist so they can keep an eye on how your treatment plan is working and tweak it if needed. They’ll watch you for signs of psoriatic arthritis and other psoriasis-related illnesses.
What is a rheumatologist?
A rheumatologist diagnoses and treats conditions that affect your joints, muscles, and bones, such as arthritis.
How do rheumatologists treat psoriasis?
They don’t treat your skin, but rather a common condition that psoriasis can trigger called psoriatic arthritis (PsA). PsA causes stiff, painful, swollen, and tender joints, tendons, or ligaments. You may also feel extremely tired and notice changes to your nails.
If you and your doctor catch PsA early enough, you can slow the illness, ease symptoms, and avoid lasting joint damage.
What is a psychologist?
These mental health professionals use methods like talk therapy to help you manage challenges in your life. They’ll also help you deal with things like relationships and mental health issues.
How do psychologists treat psoriasis?
Experts estimate that people with psoriatic disease have a greater chance of having depression and anxiety than those who are psoriasis-free. These are both conditions that psychologists can help treat. Psychologists may also specialize in the mental health of people with long-term medical conditions.
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American Academy of Dermatology Association: “Psoriasis: Overview,” “Psoriasis: Diagnosis and Treatment.”
Arthritis Foundation: “Your Psoriatic Arthritis Health Care Team.”
The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance: “Who to see?”
National Psoriasis Foundation: “Your Care Team,” “Rheumatologist,” “Primary Care Provider,” “Dermatologist.”
Northeastern University: “What Do Pharmacists Do? Roles and Responsibilities.”
Mayo Clinic: “Psoriasis.”
University of Florida Department of Otolaryngology: “What is an Advanced Practice Provider?”
University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences: “What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?”
Cleveland Clinic: “Psychologist.”
Archives of Dermatology: “The risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidality in patients with psoriasis: A population-based cohort study.”
American Physical Therapy Association: “Becoming a PT.”