Dry and itchy skin, managing expectations

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Understanding patients’ treatment expectations

It’s important to take into consideration what a patient wants to get from their treatment and what’s possible or feasible for them. The more serious dry and itchy skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis can flare up if skin becomes inflamed. This can be due to several factors, such as patients who stop using their emollients when they feel their skin is getting better, so it can be easy for both patients and healthcare professionals to feel frustrated if the treatment isn’t working. 

There is evidence to show that, for conditions like psoriasis, each patient has their own opinion about what is considered successful treatment. 1 Patients and healthcare professionals can also have different perceptions of successful treatment: for example, in one study comprising of 29 dermatologists and 25 adult psoriasis patients in the US, healthcare professionals reported that their treatment goal was to see a 30–40% improvement in the skin condition and a better quality of life. Whereas patients reported goals of a visible reduction within 12 weeks with eventual complete resolution of symptoms. 1 

Discussion and joint decision-making between patient and healthcare professional is key to managing skin conditions. In one study of patients with psoriasis, both doctors and patients reported the importance of setting realistic treatment goals at the beginning of treatment, to avoid frustration, non-compliance with medication and to give patients more confidence in their treatment. The patients consulted in the study also said they’d want treatment goals to be set with a timeline, with alternative options if the goals aren’t met. 1

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Managing and working with patients’ expectations from the outset is important:

  • Explain that the symptoms of dry and itchy skin conditions can be relieved but the conditions themselves cannot be cured
  • Set realistic treatment goals at the first appointment so the patient has an idea of how their condition will improve
  • Reinforce the idea of keeping to their routine as key in meeting their treatment expectations, which can help increase compliance and treatment effectiveness
  • Encourage patients to keep a record of how their skin is doing, for example, by using a diary or even taking photographs of their skin over time (this could help motivate them to continue their treatment effectively)
  • Following up with subsequent appointments to have patients’ treatment assessed regularly
  • You can also talk about other treatment options if their condition isn’t responding

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More information

Take a look at our treatment planner which can help set goals, manage expectations and record how treatment is going.


  1. Uhlenhake E, Kurkowski D, Feldman SR. (2010). J Dermatolog Treat. 21(1): 6-12