My Psoriasis Journey: Connecting With My Dermatologist
Until three years ago, when I was 27 years old, I had no symptoms of psoriasis whatsoever. I had never even heard of it. Then, one day, I noticed I had a small patch of itchy, dry skin on my arm. I assumed it was just a rash that would go away. But over the next few weeks, I developed more and more of these patches, which eventually covered my face, arms, hands and even the bottoms of my feet. Within one month, 90% of my body was covered. I didn’t know what was happening.
Searching for Answers
I went to my family doctor, who I’d seen my entire life, and he was as confused as I was. I sat with him in the exam room as he searched online for my symptoms, and I remember thinking, “this is not good.” He ended up deciding my symptoms must be the result of a virus, so he prescribed me antiobotics and said they should take care of it. They didn’t. I saw two other general practitioners after that, but neither of them knew what to do with me, either. Finally, one of them referred me to a dermatologist.
Even though the symptoms were affecting my skin, I hadn’t thought to see a dermatologist. I associated dermatologists with acne treatments and cosmetic procedures. I thought my symptoms were a reflection of some virus or something a general practitioner could treat. But that wasn’t the case.
I went to see the dermatologist, who told me she thought it was psoriasis—but she openly admitted she had no experience treating it. She said she’d feel better putting me in more capable hands and referred me to a nearby hospital with a special department focused on psoriasis patients. I’m so grateful to her for finally pointing me in the right direction.
Finally, a Diagnosis
The dermatology team at the hospital was amazing. I had never heard of psoriasis before, and the dermatologists were very patient and informative. One dermatologist explained what was going on with my body—how my immune system was working too hard so my skin cells were growing too quickly, causing the rough, scaly patches, or plaques, to develop. It was definitely a team approach there, and I felt like I was in more than capable hands with these experts. It was so comforting, after searching for so long, to be working with a team of doctors who were truly knowledgeable about my condition.
My diagnosis was still scary, though. After that first appointment, I went online and found all kinds of information about psoriasis, and it was pretty overwhelming. I came across tons of blogs written by other people with psoriasis, and their experiences seemed really challenging. It hit me hard that I was going to have to deal with this condition for the rest of my life. It was difficult to swallow that news. But I kept looking ahead and researching more information. As a writer by profession, my natural tendency is to find out as much as I can about something and then get to work making sense of it. Now that I had a diagnosis, I didn’t want to stick my head in the sand. I immediately got involved with the online blogging community and became a psoriasis advocate. Building relationships with other people with psoriasis helped me get the support and information I needed, and that community, along with my dermatology team, helped me realize I could handle this challenge.
Determining the Right Treatment
When I began discussing treatment options, I worked with one member of the dermatology team. I immediately felt confident that together, we could gain control of my psoriasis. He told me every psoriasis patient is different, so we’d have to try a few things before finding the right solution. We went through a lot of trial and error when trying to find the right treatment, but it was such a relief to be treated by a doctor who put me at ease about the path ahead.
The first thing he did was prescribe me topical medications, like ointments and creams. I tried a steroid cream initially, but it didn’t have any effect. Other topicals didn’t work either. But then I tried ultraviolet (UV) light therapy, where I was exposed to a specific type of light known to clear psoriasis, and it worked really well. I had UV therapy a few times a week for about six months, and most of my plaques finally cleared. I feel really lucky, because I know people who have been struggling to find the right treatment for years, whether they end up with biological medications or others. I don’t know how long these effects will last, but I’m grateful my skin is clear now. If my psoriasis starts to come back, I’m confident my dermatologist will be there every step of the way while we try new options.
Be Your Own Advocate
After going through this whole process, I think it’s so important for people to find the right doctor. The stress of being passed from doctor to doctor and not understanding what was going on with my body was really hard to deal with. Now that I’m involved in psoriasis awareness and advocacy, I tell people that if they don’t feel like they’re in the right hands with their current physician, don’t wait to find someone new. You have to be comfortable with your doctor and confident that he or she knows the ins and outs of your condition. Connecting with my dermatology team was the most important step to getting my psoriasis under control, so I think it’s absolutely crucial that patients aren’t afraid to find the right doctor for them.
Brittany Ineson is a born-and-raised New Yorker who writes about her experience managing psoriasis on her blog, SeeingPspots.com. She’s also a volunteer and advocate for the National Psoriasis Foundation, and dog-mom to her pup, Brooklyn.
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