Assembling Your Best Healthcare Team
One of the first steps in managing your atopic dermatitis (also known as atopic eczema) is assembling the best healthcare team for you. Having the support of friends, family, and significant others can be beneficial in your journey, however, having a professional team of caretakers that understands and listens to you can make a world of difference as you approach treatment options.
Here are some examples of professionals to seek out for your healthcare team.
Primary Care Physician (PCP)
Your primary care physician is often the first step in the process for someone who thinks they may have atopic dermatitis (AD). Having a knowledgeable primary care physician who knows you well can make all the difference. For mild cases of atopic dermatitis, your PCP can prescribe topical ointments or basic treatments. For more moderate to severe cases (or even in mild cases as well), your PCP can point you in the direction of a dermatologist who would have plenty of experience with atopic dermatitis, as well as potentially be a good fit for you personally.
A dermatologist is a great practitioner to have on your team, as they are often the most knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with this condition. Finding a dermatologist who you feel comfortable with personally, and who understands your lifestyle, is the most beneficial. Sometimes atopic dermatitis can be difficult to treat, and oftentimes, certain treatment plans are not conducive to your lifestyle, such as applying ointment multiple times a day for those with a busy, non-stop schedule. Having a dermatologist who empathizes with you, and understands the basics of your daily life and routine can help you find treatment options that work best for you, and help you create a long-term plan. It may also be important to find a dermatologist that specializes in what you need. For example, a pediatric dermatologist may be necessary for younger patients, or you may find out that a specific practitioner in your area specializes in atopic eczema.
Allergists are experts in the immune system, allergies, and asthma. After medical school, these doctors go through three years of training in internal medicine or pediatrics. They take a test to become board certified in one of these fields. They do an additional two years of training in allergy and immunology. They must pass a test from the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. Allergists usually see patients outside the hospital. People with atopic dermatitis may be referred to an allergist to rule out if allergies are causing any symptoms. Allergists perform allergy skin testing and prescribe allergy shots when appropriate.
Psychiatrist or Therapist
It may seem odd to include these kinds of specialists on your healthcare team, however, they may be necessary at times to help you remain at your mental best. Atopic dermatitis can take a toll on your self-confidence or can lead to increased social anxieties. Many of these feelings can lead to mental health conditions, such as depression. Being able to talk to a mental health expert about your concerns, frustrations, and worries can make a difference in keeping you strong.
While not everyone with atopic dermatitis experiences a connection with their symptoms and their diet, some do report relief from symptoms or an increase in overall health while eating right and getting proper nutrition. A nutritionist may be able to help you discover what foods can keep you healthy, or potentially reduce AD symptoms if they are connected to your diet.
Make sure your team works for you!
When you are putting together your healthcare team, remember that your doctor works for you! It is important to find someone you feel comfortable with and that listens to your questions and concerns and treats you with respect. You can fire your doctor by finding another one!
Find out up front if they have appointment times that work for your schedule. Ask their front desk staff about how long it usually takes to get an appointment and what are their policies around rescheduling. If you had an emergent situation, how soon could they see you? Do they ever have walk-in hours? Will they call in prescription refills for you or do they use an electronic prescription service? Ask how they coordinate your care with other doctors you may be seeing. There may be other questions that are important to you, write them down so you have them for your first visit.
Let us know who is on your healthcare team and how they impact your treatment options and overall experience with atopic dermatitis.
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