Finding a Doctor for Psoriatic Arthritis

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2022 | Last updated: July 2022

People with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) may have several doctors and specialists on their healthcare team. Having a diverse care team can help manage the disease and ease symptoms.

Choosing a doctor for PsA management

Generalists are those who consider the person as a whole. Specialists are focused on one specific system or area in the body. Specialists often have the edge when it comes to current knowledge in their area of expertise. Depending on your needs, both generalists and specialists can play an important role in treating your PsA.

Primary care provider

A primary care provider (PCP) is the one who coordinates all of a person’s medical care. They may be:1

  • Family medicine doctors
  • Internal medicine doctors
  • Pediatricians
  • Nurse practitioners (NPs)
  • Physician assistants (PAs)

A PCP is often the first point of contact in the medical care journey. They provide care for chronic, preventive, and acute conditions. They handle vaccinations, routine physicals, and screening tests. They also address other urgent needs.1

For people with chronic conditions like PsA, it is better to have a PCP than to rely on an urgent care facility. With a PCP, your entire medical history and background will be on record and taken into consideration.

Rheumatologist

Rheumatologists are doctors who have extra training in musculoskeletal diseases and autoimmune conditions, such as PsA. Rheumatologists diagnose and treat joint disease but do not perform surgeries.2

People with PsA should have a rheumatologist. Rheumatologists work in outpatient clinics. You may need a referral from your PCP to see a rheumatologist.2

Dermatologist

Dermatologists specialize in the treatment of the skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes. Mucous membranes are the lining inside the mouth, nose, and eyelids. These doctors diagnose and treat thousands of different diseases, including psoriasis.3

Most people with PsA first develop psoriasis, so a dermatologist may be the first doctor to suspect PsA. Generally, though, a rheumatologist diagnoses PsA.2,3

Internal medicine doctor

Internal medicine doctors diagnose and treat a range of health conditions and illnesses. Also known as internists, these doctors have training in how to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases that affect adults. Internists may act as PCPs and coordinate your care with other specialists.1

Orthopedic surgeon

Orthopedic surgeons diagnose and treat problems in the musculoskeletal system. These include:4

  • Bones
  • Joints
  • Ligaments
  • Tendons
  • Muscles
  • Nerves that allow movement

Some orthopedic surgeons have special areas of focus, such as foot and ankle, spine, hip, or knee. An orthopedic surgeon can perform a number of surgeries, including:4

  • Arthroscopy – Using equipment to visualize, diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint
  • Fusion – Fusing bones together
  • Joint replacement

People with PsA who have a lot of joint damage may be referred to an orthopedic surgeon for joint surgery.4

Occupational and physical therapist

People with PsA are often referred to physical and occupational therapists to help them maintain joint function. Physical therapists help reduce pain and improve or restore mobility. They help people prevent or manage their condition and help prevent disability.5

Occupational therapists work with people who need special assistance. This need may be due to physical, developmental, social, or emotional issues. They can help people living with PsA to do everyday tasks like eating, dressing, and working.5

Mental health counselor

People with PsA are twice as likely to be depressed as those with psoriasis. They are also more likely to have clinical depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety in people with PsA are linked to:6

  • Unemployment
  • Severe disease
  • Disability
  • Pain
  • Fatigue

Many people with PsA benefit from seeing a mental health counselor or therapist. Counselors and therapists can teach coping skills. These skills can help people with PsA deal with the mental, social, and emotional aspects of living with a painful chronic disease.6

Ophthalmologist

Ophthalmologists are doctors that specialize in the eyes. People with PsA are at risk for an eye disease called uveitis. They should have an eye exam with an ophthalmologist every year.7

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