Karin is a patient and advocate for people with serious skin conditions, based in Austria.
All over the world, the amount of time you get to spend with your dermatologist at an appointment varies. In some countries you may get more time, while in others it can be less. In Austria, we can often only spend seven minutes with our dermatologist at each appointment. I know how difficult it can be to discuss everything you need during a quick visit. However, after many years of spending just seven minutes with my doctor, I’ve learned how to maximise every moment of my appointment.
Preparation is half the battle
Before I meet with my doctor, I determine the most important things I want to achieve during my visit. To avoid forgetting anything important, I write down all relevant information and questions about symptoms and management options—including goals for management—in advance. Make sure to include information about your lifestyle, such as eating habits and physical activity. Keeping a diary has been particularly helpful for me. I write down all my symptoms and questions in my diary every day and bring it with me. This makes it easier for my doctor to recognise possible medical connections without taking up too much of my allotted time.
The more information you give your doctor, the better they can help address your symptoms. Don’t know what to talk about? This discussion guide can help.
The three questions you should be able to answer after every appointment
Even if time seems tight during your appointment, reserve time to write down key information from your doctor. My tip: record the discussion on your cell phone so that you can listen to it later whenever something is unclear to you. (Make sure you get permission from your doctor before you hit record, though!)
If you have any questions during your appointment, don’t be shy and ask them immediately. In my experience, you should leave your appointment being able to answer the following questions:
If you can’t answer “Yes” to any of these questions, it can lead to confusion and should be resolved as soon as possible. You should ask your doctor if anything is unclear, and feel empowered to give your own opinion. If I still have questions after the appointment, I will call the doctor later or do my own research online.
Opening up to your doctor will help you
Many psoriasis sufferers are embarrassed to talk about the different ways their psoriasis impacts them, especially if it appears in intimate areas or affects their mental health. This often leads to people concealing how psoriasis affects their life, which is important for your doctor to know when finding the best management plan for you. The impact that your psoriasis has on your confidence, social life, hobbies and relationships is just as important as your skin.
Beyond your physical symptoms and impact on your life, your doctor will want to know details about your lifestyle and nutrition. Sometimes, it can be difficult to realise the connection between your lifestyle, eating habits and psoriasis. Your doctor specialises in that and is there to help you. In my opinion, it is always better to give more information. That’s why my diary has been so helpful for me.
Another reason people have told me they don’t share details of their lifestyle is because they fear being judged for possibly unhealthy behavior. No one likes to feel that way, and in my experience it stems from a lack of trust between the doctor and patient. Trust takes time to build, but continuing to open up to your doctor and letting your doctor know what in control of your psoriasis would mean to you can help.
Living with a serious skin condition has made me shy away from many things, including having open discussions with my doctor. My patient platform helped me open up more to my doctor and see it is possible to feel better and free in my own skin. I want you to get there, too.
You deserve to feel confident in your skin, but how do you have a clear conversation about your psoriasis goals with your doctor? Sometimes speaking up can be the hardest part.
Be clear about your goals. The power to speak up, feel confident and seek the best care is within you. Sharing your story could be your next step to feeling free from psoriasis—and possibly inspire others to do the same.