Show and Tell: Why you should tell your dermatologist how you’re feeling
If you suffer from a chronic skin condition, then you are dealing with more than just the physical symptoms. You are also dealing with the mental and emotional stress that comes along with it. Together the physical, mental and emotional impact of a condition such as psoriasis or chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU) can take a major toll on a patient’s quality of life (QoL). My goal as a dermatologist is not just to treat the symptoms of the skin, but also to improve my patients’ overall quality of life.
Listen up, Doc…
What you may not realize is that QoL is one of the main criteria used by dermatologists to assess many chronic skin conditions. When choosing the type of treatment to apply, looking solely at the affected skin is not adequate to determine severity. The impairment of quality of life has to be incorporated into the evaluation, especially when considering more aggressive treatment options. That’s why it is important to talk to your doctor about what is going on with your condition. This way, we can track key measures of QoL and share this information.
Yes, measuring quality of life IS a thing
The Dermatology Life Quality Index, or DLQI, was the first dermatology-specific instrument developed to measure QoL. It is a simple 10-question survey that asks the patient to report over the last week how much their skin condition has affected their life, such as interfering with social activities, impacting work (or studying), and influencing what they wear. For each question the patient rates the impact from “very much” to “not at all.” Your dermatologist may ask you to complete a questionnaire like this as part of initial assessment or as follow-up after initiating a new treatment. Even if you aren’t asked to complete a formal questionnaire, sharing relevant information about QoL with your doctor can help them to assess your condition and how you are impacted by it, in order to deliver the best possible treatment.
I suggest that my patients keep a journal. Depending on the condition, information may be recorded daily to weekly. I suggest documenting when the condition is most active, what possible triggers may have led to a flare-up, treatments used and whether they were effective, and how your activities and emotions were affected. Before your appointment you can review your journal and summarize key points to share with your doctor. To make the best use of your appointment time, keep your journal organized so that you can easily reference information if your doctor asks.
The goal when treating any skin condition is to minimize symptoms and make sure you can live as normal of a life as possible. By openly sharing how your condition affects you, your physician can better understand the steps necessary to help you.