Patients with plaque psoriasis who see their doctor frequently can increase their odds of finding an effective and appropriate treatment for them, especially as there are more ways to treat psoriasis than ever before. According to an analysis of the MarketScan Medicaid database, the average time between a psoriasis patient’s initial visit to the doctor’s office and a follow-up appointment is 153 days.
To raise awareness about why it’s important for patients to work with their doctors to help manage psoriasis during this year’s Psoriasis Awareness Month (August), Mark Jackson, M.D., Clinical Professor of Medicine (Dermatology) at the University of Louisville and Forefront Dermatology, explains how often patients with psoriasis should see their doctors, how psoriasis treatments have evolved and why it’s important for patients to feel empowered to help take control of their disease.
How often do you recommend your patients with psoriasis see you?
“Plaque psoriasis requires active management. It’s essential that doctors make sure that their patient’s condition is improving within four to six weeks of starting a new treatment for them. Even if their current treatment is effectively controlling their symptoms, they should still see their doctors every three to six months. Seeing their physician frequently is imperative for patients with psoriasis.
That being said, if a patient is experiencing new symptoms or treatment side effects, they should call their doctor immediately.”
Why is it important that people with psoriasis see their doctors frequently?
“Psoriasis is not just a rash; it’s an inflammatory disease. Patients with psoriasis are more likely to have other health conditions, including metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Up to 30 percent of psoriasis patients eventually develop psoriatic arthritis as well.
During office visits, doctors check the signs and symptoms of psoriasis and its comorbidities. Dermatologists are not just skin experts; we’re physicians. We can optimize our patients’ overall health and if we can assist in controlling the inflammation from psoriasis, we might possibly be able to help reduce the risk of these other conditions as well.”
What are some symptoms that you tell your patients to look out for?
“For most patients, psoriasis symptoms can fluctuate on a seasonal basis or with life changes. Cold, dry weather and stress can both trigger a psoriasis flare, and certain medications can make some symptoms worse.
Because of the increased risk of developing psoriatic arthritis, I make sure my patients are on the lookout for any joint pain and swelling. Patients should also know and watch out for the signs and symptoms of other comorbid conditions.”
The more that people with psoriasis take charge of their overall health and treatment, the better their outcomes can be.
How can doctors encourage their patients to see them more frequently?
“Doctors should foster a partnership with their patients through regular communication. The best outcomes occur if patients and doctors are both engaged and involved in their care. The more informed a patient is, the better decisions they make and the more compliant they can be with treatment.
Some patients may get scared when they learn about the risks that come with some systemic psoriasis treatments. It’s our job as physicians to thoroughly explain to our patients the risks and benefits of all their options and address their concerns, so we can make the most appropriate choice together.”
How have psoriasis treatments evolved over the past decade?
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of available psoriasis therapies as well as the efficacy and tolerability of those treatments. Newer treatments have become much more targeted compared with many of the older systemic medications, which cast a wider net on the immune system.”
Why is it important that patients feel empowered to manage their psoriasis?
“We can’t make patients take their medicines or schedule appointments, but we need to work to make them engaged participants. We can only provide the best information and try to build their confidence with the hope of helping improve their treatment compliance.
I encourage my patients to get involved with the National Psoriasis Foundation and learn more about their disease. My patients don’t always love hearing about diet and exercise, but I try to explain to them that their therapy may be more effective if they maintain a healthy body weight. The more that people with psoriasis take charge of their overall health and treatment, the better their outcomes can be.”
To learn more about how comorbidities can affect the health and care of people with psoriasis, read “Painting a Clearer Picture of Psoriasis Comorbidities.”