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6 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Psoriasis

6 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Psoriasis

A psoriasis diagnosis can be surprising—and because the exact cause of the condition in unknown—confusing. Take charge of your condition and treatment options by asking your doctor or dermatologist these key questions at your next appointment.

1. How did I develop psoriasis? And what type do I have?
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, but healthcare professionals believe the condition is caused by a combination of genetic factors, an overactive immune system and exposure to triggers, like stress, infections or allergies. Approximately 10 percent of the general population may have a genetic predisposition to psoriasis, but it’s expressed in only two to three percent of those people. 

Treatment options and at-home care will depend on the type of psoriasis you have. There are five types of psoriasis:

  • Plaque, the most common form, which appears as rough, itchy, red patches on the scalp, knees, elbows and other parts of the body
  • Guttate, which develops as polka dot-like lesions and often develops during childhood
  • Inverse, characterized by dark red lesions in folds of the skin
  • Pustular, which forms white pustules filled with uninfected pus
  • Erythrodermic, characterized by dark red and extremely painful lesions all over the body

2. What are the best treatment options for me?
There are many treatment options for psoriasis, including topical medications, pills, injections, light therapy and treatments that alter the immune system, including biologics. Based on the type and severity of your psoriasis, as well as your family history and lifestyle, your doctor or dermatologist will determine the best course of treatment.

3. What are the side effects of these treatment options?
Like any medication, treatments for psoriasis will have side effects, so it’s important to discuss potential complications with your healthcare provider.

For example, certain topical treatments can cause the skin to thin; one particular oral medication can lead to liver damage; light therapy can irritate the skin or even increase skin cancer risk; and by interfering with the immune system, biologics can put you at risk for serious infections.

Before starting any treatment, be sure to assess all of the benefits—and risks—with your doctor, and ask about any drug interactions if you’re taking another medication.

4. What can I do at home to help my condition?
Paired with your treatment, maintaining healthy skin habits can help alleviate the discomfort caused by psoriasis. You can minimize flare-ups and reduce inflammation by:

  • Taking a warm (not hot!) bath and applying a rich moisturizer immediately after your soak
  • Eating an anti-inflammatory diet, rich in foods like olive oil, legumes, fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins, like salmon
  • Ditching bad habits, such as smoking and drinking, which can interfere with psoriasis treatments and worsen symptoms
  • Managing stress levels to keep your immune system from going into overdrive and triggering symptoms

5. What triggers should I avoid?
Not everyone with psoriasis reacts to the same triggers, but common causes of outbreaks include stress, injury and infections, which cause an immunoresponse. Other factors, like allergies, diet, lifestyle habits (like smoking, drinking and not exercising), are also thought to contribute to flare-ups.

If you’re not sure what’s triggering your flare-ups or worsening symptoms, try keeping a daily journal. What did you eat each day? Did you smoke or drink? What was the weather like? Narrowing down—and eliminating—potential causes will make it easier to treat your psoriasis at home. 

6. Can psoriasis lead to other health conditions?
Because psoriasis is an inflammatory disease, those living with the condition are more likely to develop several serious health risks. Comorbidities include psoriatic arthritis, or inflammation, pain and swelling in the joints, heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer. Many people with psoriasis also experience depression, as the condition can cause feelings of low self-esteem and anxiety. 

Receiving treatment, maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding smoking and alcohol and seeking help for emotional distress can reduce many comorbidities of psoriasis.

Medically reviewed in December 2018.

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