“It’s only itchy skin, I don’t want to bother anyone!” “I’m too disgusting to show anyone, even a doctor!” “There are people much worse off than me, I’m fine!” “I’m too embarrassed to leave the house!” “I don’t want to take an appointment away from someone who is actually sick!”
If you have ever uttered any of the statements above or thought something similar about your psoriasis, you are not alone. There are plenty of excuses not to see your GP but there are many more reasons to get checked out. Having regular check-ups ensures you are receiving the correct treatment for your psoriasis and it maintains an important dialogue with your GP about your general wellbeing.
Tip 1 – Be pre-emptive and don’t leave it too late
Psoriasis can spread very quickly and no matter how long you have suffered, the condition remains unpredictable. Flares can take hold within days and sometimes for no apparent reason. Instead of waiting until it’s went from bad to worse, try visiting your GP at the first sight of a spread or when you notice a new patch. If your psoriasis is in an area you can’t check yourself, ask a loved one or a trusted friend to take a photograph of your back every now and again so you can monitor any changes. It may not be the first thing you want to do, but photographs are a great way to document changes and progress. It is also very motivating when there is progress, no matter how minute, you can look back and see small improvements in your skin.
Tip 2 – Be proactive and find the right GP
When arranging an appointment; before you even set foot in your GP’s room, it is worthwhile asking your local surgery if there is an available doctor with specific dermatology knowledge. There may not be but better to check than be next door to someone better suited to evaluate your condition. It is also important that you feel comfortable with your GP. If you would prefer a female or male doctor, again, you can only ask. This may mean waiting but if it gives you a more effective appointment then what’s a couple of more days.
Tip 3 – Be logical and write it down
Emotions can run high when you finally see your GP so it is a good idea to take along some personal notes.
- Try to write down times when your skin is feeling particularly painful and/or itchy, this will give your doctor a better picture of your skin.
- Write down any accompanying symptoms including long term ones as well as your most recent; you may well have grown to live with your symptoms but that doesn’t mean you should.
- Write down worries you may have about future treatments or side effects, forewarned is forearmed.
- Finally write down any questions you have. As the old adage goes; the only silly questions are the ones that are not asked. You don’t want to come out of your appointment thinking “I wish I had mentioned…!”
Writing everything down will ensure you don’t forget anything important and it will be a much more productive use of your time and your GP’s. It may also be an idea to take down instructions given by your doctor for where to put certain treatments on then body, how much and how regularly. It’s the simple things we forget by the time we’ve picked up our prescription and got home for a cuppa.
Tip 4 – Be honest and tell the GP everything
You don’t have to divulge your recent telly addiction or your musical guilty pleasures but being honest will allow your GP to see a complete picture. Be honest about treatments you have tried so far. Before seeking medical help, most people these days use a simple search of the internet to self-diagnose and self-treat. No matter how weird and wonderful, it would be best to tell your doctor everything you have used to this point, and obviously let them know if it has or hasn’t worked. Similarly be honest about the frequency of your treatments. If you were told to use a cream or lotion every night and you have only been managing it once a week, let your GP know so they can consider, if any, more relevant options for you and your lifestyle.
Tip 5 – Be open and talk about the bigger picture
Psoriasis is so much more than just a skin thing.
You may have read the word comorbidities and wondered, not only, what this word means but how on earth to pronounce it without repeating it in your head slowly at least 3 times.
Well, ‘co-mor-bid-ities’ are all the other disorders related to psoriasis. One of the most prevalent disorders commonly linked to psoriasis is depression. Therefore it is very important you discuss your overall quality of life. From the outside to your friends and family the main issue with psoriasis may seem like an aesthetic one but that usually isn’t the main reason sufferers seek treatment. Discuss with your GP how the itch affects your daily life. The itch, pain and cracked, bleeding skin caused by psoriasis can have a detrimental effect on your ability to function as well as your sleep; in turn affecting your work, relationships, choice of clothing and life in general. Psoriasis Association UK have developed a 2 page document called “Itch Discussion Tool” which you can fill out prior to your appointment or complete with your GP to have a clear, joint understanding of how the itch affects your life.
Tip 6 – Be comfortable and wear appropriate clothing
Think about clothes that can be easily lifted or removed with ease to give your GP a clear look at your skin. Loose clothing will allow you to roll up to show your skin without fully undressing. Or if swimwear helps you to feel more covered up you could wear a swimsuit or swim shorts under your clothes.
If you are really worried about taking your clothes off in front of your GP you could ask a loved one to take a discrete photograph at home and you could show your skin without stripping off at all.
Tip 7 – Be realistic and stay positive
GP stands for General Practitioner. Miracle workers with immediate answers they are not, but they are there to guide and help. Psoriasis is erratic and looks very different on different parts of the body. There are also several types of psoriasis and these all look different on different people. So with this in mind it can sometimes be our own expectations against us. The first step is being seen. The next step can be very much trial and error and it can be this part of the process that some find so disheartening. The outcome of your appointment may be a new treatment or it may be a referral to a specialist as an outpatient. But whatever the outcome of this singular appointment, remember that you are on a journey and you have taken the most important step by seeking help.
This content is not intended to advise you about your health. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professionals.
UK/IE MAT-03366. Date of Prep: May 2016