Maybe you began to worry after a couple of dry, red patches suddenly appeared on your leg and wouldn’t go away despite time and over-the-counter medication. Or it could have been something more widespread, like a “rash” that persisted and wasn’t something your general practitioner understood well. However you’ve received your psoriasis diagnosis, know this: you’re not alone, there’s lots of support and information available, and life IS going to get better.
Educating yourself and reaching out to others are among the best ways to navigate this time. Read on for more tips to deal with your diagnosis.
1.) Find a dermatologist. Make sure this person specializes in psoriasis. Your primary doctor likely will have recommendations. You can also find a qualified dermatologist through the American Academy of Dermatology’s physician database.
2.) Consider working with a mentor. The National Psoriasis Foundation, through its “Psoriasis One to One” program, connects experienced mentors with those newly diagnosed. This person won’t provide medical advice, but rather offer disease and treatment information. Other patient advocate programs are available as well, including one through Psoriasis Speaks.
3.) Learn about your treatment options. The good news: there is a wide range of treatments available for psoriasis. You should work together with your dermatologist to develop the right plan for you. Treatments include: topicals, phototherapy and systemic medicines.
4.) Know your family health history. If you have psoriasis or a family history of psoriasis, be sure to let a doctor who is prescribing medication know. Some medications can trigger a first outbreak of psoriasis or cause existing psoriasis to flare.
5.) Once you find a good dermatologist, keep seeing him or her. Follow-up appointments with a dermatologist are essential for patients with psoriasis, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Between 5 percent and 42 percent of people who have psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis, which requires treatment to prevent a potentially disabling condition, according to the ADA. Psoriasis also is associated with a higher risk of other health conditions.
6.) Research clinical trials. If you’re interested in possibly trying a new kind of psoriasis treatment, consider researching this option. You can find clinical trials for psoriasis by visiting Center Watch and ClincalTrials.gov.
7.) Understand YOUR triggers. What may spark a flare for you may be very different from another person with psoriasis. Knowing what affects your skin will help you make more informed choices - about your lifestyle and treatment. Common psoriasis triggers include: infection, reaction to certain medications, skin injury, stress, weather and things like hormones, smoking and heavy alcohol consumption.
8.) Practice good skin care - even when you’re not experiencing a flare. Use
emollients and moisturizers since regular use can help soften skin and prevent the dryness that causes the skin to itch. Also: bathe or shower in warm, not hot water (use fragrance-free cleansers, too); never pick at lesions, since this can cause bleeding, infection and a worsening of your psoriasis; pat, don’t rub, your skin dry since irritating the skin in any way can cause psoriasis lesions to form; use sunscreen (while sunlight can help treat psoriasis, many treatments make the skin sun-sensitive, and sun exposure can cause sunburn, which can trigger psoriasis);
wear cotton clothing, which is less likely than other fabrics to irritate your skin.
9.) Surround yourself with supportive, loving family and friends. Having psoriasis can affect you physically and emotionally, so spending time with those close to you will help ease the frustrations and challenging times that often come along with this disease. Consider joining a local support group - check your local newspaper or community health center for these - or join an online forum such as the National Psoriasis Foundation’s Talk Psoriasis Support Community.
10.) Stay active. Since stress is a proven psoriasis trigger, maintaining an exercise routine can help significantly. Eat healthy foods, drink lots of water and get plenty of rest.
Armed with knowledge and support, you’ll feel more confident about living with this non-contagious autoimmune disease that affects as many as 7.5 million Americans. Over time, you will feel more confident in your skin.