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Why People with Psoriasis Need a Primary Care Physician

While psoriasis can feel all-encompassing, you need to focus on these other areas of your health and wellbeing.

Why People with Psoriasis Need a Primary Care Physician

Psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder. In its most common form—plaque psoriasis—it causes red, dry, scaly skin lesions called plaques.

These plaques are most commonly located on the scalp, elbows, and knees. Symptoms typically occur in a cycle of relapse and remission—getting worse at times, getting better at other times. One of the goals of treatment is to achieve a prolonged state of remission—or at least reduce symptoms to mild and minimal. There is no cure for psoriasis, and treatment is an ongoing process.

Typically, treatment for psoriasis will be overseen by a dermatologist, a healthcare provider that specializes in the treatment of conditions that affect the skin.

People who have psoriatic arthritis (a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects some people who have psoriasis) will also work with a rheumatologist, a specialist that treats diseases that affect the musculoskeletal system.

Additionally, people with psoriasis are advised to work with a primary care provider. Here, we look at the important role a primary care provider plays in staying healthy while living with psoriasis.

What is a primary care provider?
A primary care provider practices general medicine—the doctor you visit for annual checkups, when you are ill or have an injury, and to keep up on preventive care like vaccinations. They are often the first type of provider you will see when you have a symptom. This provider may be an MD (Doctor of Medicine) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). They may also be a Nurse Practitioner (NP) or Physician Assistant (PA).

Working with your primary care provider
Regular appointments with your primary care provider are essential for addressing any health concerns or issues that you have, whether directly related to psoriasis or not. Here are a few examples:

  • Routine screenings. Routinely checking biomarkers like cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose can help identify other health conditions, like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These conditions are very common, and more common among people who have psoriasis.
  • Weight, nutrition, and exercise. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutritious and balanced diet, and staying physically active are essential to successfully managing psoriasis and maintaining good overall health. Your primary care provider is an excellent source of information about these topics.
  • Vaccinations. Staying up to date on vaccinations is important to preventing serious illness. This is especially important for people who are treating psoriasis with biologic medications or other medications that act on the immune system.
  • Mental health. Anyone with psoriasis knows that the condition can be a mental and emotional burden. Moods, sleep, stress levels, and other areas of mental and emotional health are a topic you can discuss.
  • Referral to other specialists. If you need to see a specialist for evaluation or treatment of another health condition—such as a cardiologist, diabetes educator, or a mental health professional—your primary care provider can recommend someone and write a referral if needed. Your primary care provider can even recommend a different dermatologist if you feel you need a second opinion.
  • Coordinate healthcare. If you have psoriasis plus another health condition, and are working with multiple specialists, your primary care provider may also help coordinate the different aspects of your care and how the treatments for these conditions align with one another.
  • Treating short-term illness. Your primary care provider is also the person you will want to see when you have a short-term illness that requires treatment, such as a cold or a stomach bug.

It’s important to remember that psoriasis is a lifelong condition. Even when symptoms are in long-term remission, the disease is not cured and never fully goes away. Having a reliable primary care provider means you are better equipped to meet any healthcare needs you have now or in the future.

Medically reviewed in October 2021.

Sources:
MedlinePlus. "Psoriasis."
UpToDate. "Patient education: Psoriasis (Beyond the Basics)."
Jayne Leonard. "What to know about psoriasis remission." Medical News Today. January 16, 2019.
National Psoriasis Foundation. "Treating to Target."
National Psoriasis Foundation. "Dermatologist."
MedlinePlus. "Psoriatic Arthritis."
American College of Rheumatology. "Primary Care Physician."
KidsHealth.org. "What's a Primary Care Physician (PCP)?"
MedlinePlus. "Choosing a primary care provider."
National Psoriasis Foundation. "Primary Care Provider."
American Heart Association. "Heart-Health Screenings."
National Psoriasis Foundation. "Related Conditions of Psoriasis."
American Academy of Dermatology Association. "Healthy Diet and Other Lifestyle Changes that can Improve Psoriasis."
UpToDate. "Immunizations in autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic disease in adults."
Brian Wu. "Psychological effects of psoriasis." DermNet NZ. March 2017.
Diane Talbert. "Coordinating Care for Multiple Conditions." Patients Rising. October 18, 2018.

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