How to Stick With Your Psoriasis Treatment Plan
Messy creams, time-consuming washes, multiple meds—we get it, dealing with psoriasis is a lot. “Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition, which means it’s lifelong,” says Tatyana Nektalova, M.D., of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City. “Compliance is crucial to controlling those scaly plaques that tend to wax and wane. Sticking to a treatment plan is critical to getting better.” Not only that but lapses in your med schedule can fuel the beast, causing psoriasis to grow stronger and more resilient (not the look you want).
“Once you quit a skin care regimen cold turkey, psoriasis can return with a vengeance and you may need even stronger treatments to manage it,” says Orit Markowitz, M.D., an associate professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Still, following a routine on the regular is hard—even for the most well-intentioned and diligent. This plan can help keep you from slacking off and sabotaging your skin. With a few easy tricks, it’s easy to stay on track.
Seeing is adhering when it comes to keeping yourself committed to treatment. “For patients with psoriasis, self-care can be overwhelming with so many creams and shampoos to keep track of,” Dr. Nektalova says. “I always provide my patients with concise hand-written instructions and have them take a photo of their tailored plan on their phones for future reference.” To make it even more foolproof, write out your regimen instructions on good old-fashioned paper and tape it to your bathroom mirror or somewhere you can’t miss it for easy reference.
Swipe for Assistance
Need a way to keep your treatment plan on track? Twenty years ago, that would have involved paper, pen, and a whole lot of notetaking and chart-making, to ensure that you didn’t miss a scheduled treatment or maintenance visit with your derm. Now, there’s an app for that. “Patients benefit from an app because it allows them to be more active participants in their disease management,” Dr. Markowitz says. “Technology is what empowers patients.”
Choose the Right App for You
In fact, a 2018 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that patients who used apps to manage psoriasis improved their adherence to treatment. Apps like Imagine track symptoms by comparing snapshots of your skin taken and uploaded over time, so you can see any changes—and know if your treatments are actually working. Other apps, like Medisafe, organize medications, provide automated refills, and give you reminders when it’s time for another dose.
Handling psoriasis solo can be overwhelming. “Get others to assist you with self-care in a way that does not feel intrusive,” says psychiatrist Grant H. Brenner M.D., co-founder of Neighborhood Psychiatry in New York City. A friend or partner can help encourage you to stick with your regular treatment when you’re just over it already and remind you of the bigger picture when you’re dealing with medication side effects. “Both things can affect treatment adherence,” Dr. Brenner says.
Find Virtual Support
Not comfortable leaning on others in your immediate circle? Wish you could share your feelings with someone else who has gone through the challenges of this disease themselves? Download an app like Flaym, which provides an instant virtual support community of people living with psoriasis. After creating a profile, you can connect, share posts, and chat with members so you know you are not alone. Realizing others also struggle to stick with their treatment plan can help you feel like you’re part of a larger group working toward a common goal.
Here’s the thing about psoriasis: It’s easy to forget (but so important to remember) to treat your skin even when you aren’t feeling a flare coming on. And when your skin is acting up, clearing it means being diligent about keeping up with your treatment schedule. If you have to apply an ointment more than once a day, or are taking multiple meds, remind yourself by setting an alarm on your phone or mark your calendar so you won’t forget.
Keep a Journal
Tracking symptoms is a crucial part of knowing whether your psoriasis is worsening—and pinpointing possible triggers that are causing flares in the first place. Every night before you go to bed, jot down what you ate during the day, how you slept the night before, if you experienced any stress, and any flares. Providing this kind of daily detail can clue you—and your doc—into the best treatment approach. Not to mention, journaling can help give you a greater sense of control over the disease.
There is nothing easy about having a chronic disease that reminds you on the daily how uncomfortable it can be to simply live in your own skin. Treatments for psoriasis aren’t perfect, but that have come a long way from the days of minimal relief with maximum side effects. If you’re disciplined about taking your meds on time, and following your schedule of check-ins with your doc, you stand a really good chance of keeping this disease at bay—for good.