Which doctor to consult? Learning how to manage lupus symptoms and get results!
My rheumatologist is good at a lot of things. He manages my lupus care tremendously well. He’s proactive in his treatment, aggressive, but not overzealous when it comes to managing flares, and willingly accepts my input when I offer it up (which is all too frequent, I’m sure!) So when it comes to anything lupus related, my rheumatologist is undoubtedly my first stop.
But after 14 years with the disease, I’ve learned that while my rheumatologist needs to know everything about my lupus, he may not always be the best doctor to treat every symptom of my lupus. My hair loss is a perfect example.
My rheum was the first doctor I told about my hair loss, of course. But when it came to managing the fallout, considering a remedy to repair the damage, and working toward a solution to stop the loss, I sought out my dermatologist. He’s my go-to guy when it comes to hair loss, and I’m so glad he is.
When I went to see my dermatologist for the first time regarding the loss, he immediately sprang into action. He did a thorough examination, openly discussed the damage as he was assessing it, which I like, and came up with a treatment plan. He suggested subsequent appointments to track the progress of the treatments as well as any additional loss. He discussed the type of loss I had, and the reason he was suggesting this particular treatment (a series of kenalog injections over the next three months.) We discussed the treatment, how it would help, and what I should expect. I asked what happened if the shots didn’t help, and we discussed that, as well. By the end of the appointment, I felt like I had a personal hair coach, a guy hoping and praying that my hair would grow back just as much as I was.
I’ve since been back for a second appointment and injection, and when he confirmed that hair growth was evident, you could visibly see his excitement. He had nothing but praise and encouragement for me, and suggested that I judge the progress over the next two months for myself. If I need to see him, I should come in. But he was hopeful that I’d be well on my way to spiky regrowth by then. How motivating!
After that second dermatologist appointment, it came time for my regular rheumatologist appointment. I was going to be sure to update him on all that had happened regarding my hair loss since I last saw him three months before. But before I did, I was sure to manage my expectations. I knew I wasn’t go to get the same encouraging, engaged reaction that I did from my dermatologist, and I was right. I got a “Really?”, and a "Hmmm." And later a “Where are you losing it?" When I lifted up my strands to show him, he didn’t seem very impressed. In fact, I think he would have dismissed it completely had I not elaborated on my dermatologist’s treatment.
A few years ago, I might have been rattled by his reaction. But not now. From my rheum, I wasn’t hoping to accomplish anything more than to have a note added to my file. And note it, he did. (He actually asked about other hair treatments as he was noting it in the end - which was good. That's HIS strength - making sure he covers his bases during the recap.)
And when I left his office, I wasn't feeling dejected because of his reaction. Rather, I felt empowered, because I had once again learned how to utilize my team of doctors to get the most effective health care possible. Both of my doctors are fabulous physicians, but playing to their strengths makes them both come out smelling like roses.