15:58 PM

Managing Psoriatic Arthritis: What I Want My Patients of Color to Know

Ashira D. Blazer, MD, MSCI, rheumatologist at HSS discusses what she wants People of Color with psoriatic arthritis to know. 

As a rheumatologist, I treat People of Color with psoriatic arthritis. Many of my patients receive late diagnoses, because People of Color are less likely to see a specialist early on who can make a proper diagnosis. This is a result of a variety of factors, including the fact that they’re less likely to be referred to a specialist by their primary care doctor. Despite the challenges, I want People of Color with psoriatic arthritis to feel empowered to overcome obstacles. 

People of Color who stay in primary care for the treatment of their rheumatic conditions may be prescribed medications that only treat the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, without delaying the progression of the disease. They also may overly rely on steroids, which are not actually helpful for psoriatic arthritis. If you can, try to get a referral to see a rheumatologist, because they will be the doctor best suited to help you manage your condition.

In rheumatology, very few specialists are People of Color, but we do know that when patients see culturally congruent physicians, they feel more heard and receive more comprehensive care. Since diversity in the rheumatology workforce is limited, allyship is key. Look for a doctor who listens to you, who is aware of their own biases and makes an effort to stay open and empathetic to your unique experience.

When it comes to criteria for the “right” doctor, there are tangibles and intangibles. When you think about tangible criteria, ask yourself: am I getting appropriate screening? Are my X-rays being done on an annual basis? If I’ve been on steroids, is someone checking my bone density? Am I receiving a full physical exam every time I see the doctor? If I’m taking certain drugs, am I getting laboratory monitoring I need?

The intangibles are found in the doctor-patient relationship. Do you feel that your doctor has empathy for you? Do you feel like your doctor takes your concerns seriously? Do they spend enough time describing your condition and treatment choices? Do you have a good understanding of your disease and your treatment plan?

If you don’t feel like you’re being heard, you don’t fully understand your care, or you aren’t receiving the tools and education you need to take care of yourself at home, then you may not have the right doctor. 

Treatment success is important, as well. If you keep coming to your doctor’s appointments with the same concerns and no one is changing your medication despite the fact that you still have other options available, that might not be the right doctor for you. Receiving a disease-modifying medication is key; that means the drug is affecting how your disease progresses, not just easing symptoms. The more that your inflammation goes unchecked, the more your joints may be injured, and the more likely it is that you’ll experience a disability.

Read the full article at healthgrades.com.