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Psoriasis Takes Toll on Mind as Well as Skin

Survey Shows People With Psoriasis Feel Misunderstood
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WebMD Health News

Feb. 9, 2004 -- The pain people with psoriasis feel is more than skin deep. New research shows that many people with the skin condition suffer from emotional pain that outweighs the physical aspects of the disease.

For example, three-fourths of people with severe psoriasis and about half of people with moderate psoriasis report low self-confidence serious enough to affect virtually all aspects of life.

Psoriasis is a common skin condition that affects about 4.5 million Americans, or 1 in 50 people in the U.S. It causes the skin cells to grow too quickly, which results in thick, red, scaly, and inflamed patches on the skin surface.

Although the condition is highly visible, it is not a contagious disease. But a survey shows the vast majority of Americans aren't aware of that fact. Researchers say that prompts many people with psoriasis to feel misunderstood by the public and self-conscious.

Psoriasis Goes Beyond Skin Deep

The two-part study included a survey of 502 people with moderate to severe psoriasis and another of 1,000 adult Americans about their ideas about psoriasis.

The surveys were conducted in December 2003 by marketing research firms on behalf of Beyond Psoriasis: The Person Behind the Patient, a new public education and support program launched today at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Genetech, Inc. funded the research, which is a biotechnology company that also produces a psoriasis drug.

Researchers found that people with psoriasis commonly report feelings of shame, anger, and depression as a result of their condition. More than half (58%) of women and 45% of men reported experiencing lower self-confidence because of their psoriasis.

Four in 10 people with psoriasis said their disease affects their sex life and intimacy, and nearly half say they worry that their partner is embarrassed by their psoriasis.

Other findings include:

  • Three-fourths of people with psoriasis say they do not like to be in public during flare-ups.
  • 64% try to hide their condition with long-sleeved shirts and pants.
  • 45% say people with psoriasis are often subjects of ridicule.

More than two-thirds of those with psoriasis say the public is ignorant about the disease, a perception supported by the second survey. Researchers found that although about half of the Americans surveyed know someone with psoriasis, 86% did not know the condition is not contagious.

Researchers say it's the most comprehensive study to date on the social and emotional impact of psoriasis and demonstrates a need for better public education about the disorder as well as support programs for people affected by the disease.

"Comprehensive care of psoriasis goes beyond treating the symptoms," says Alan Menter, MD, chief of the division of dermatology at Baylor University Medical Center and Beyond Psoriasis Board Member, in a news release. "This survey validates the need for an understanding about how psoriasis can impact a patient's social life and emotional and physical well-being."

Beyond Psoriasis is a collaboration of healthcare providers, patients, and advocates, including the National Psoriasis Foundation and the Dermatology Nurses Association.

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