If you have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis (PsA), you may find day-to-day activities challenging, including work. More than half of people with psoriasis report it has an impact on their career. Psoriasis on your hands or feet, for example, may make it hard for you to type or stand for long periods of time.
The situation can be even worse if you have PsA. One survey found that about 80% of people with PsA said that they were under- or completely unemployed as a result of their disease. Two-thirds said their PsA made it difficult for them to sit or stand. Over 40% said it made it hard to do physical tasks, and about a third said flares led to missed work and made them less productive.
It’s up to you how much you want to share about your disease with your employer and co-workers. Legally, you don’t have to disclose anything at all. But telling them may help them understand your condition and any accommodations you need. Here’s a guide to help you navigate your workplace.
Know your rights.
If you have psoriasis or PsA, you may be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law requires your employer to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. Talk to your doctor. If you have symptoms such as trouble walking, or significant pain from your disease, you may qualify.
The ADA requires companies with at least 15 employees to provide these accommodations so employees with disabilities can perform their job. This includes:
- An accessible workplace
- Ergonomic (designed for comfort) workstations and equipment. For example, if you are in pain after you work on your computer for a while, you might need an ergonomic keyboard.
- A modified schedule. If there are certain times of day when symptoms are worse, you may need to come in earlier or later or work from home part of the day.
Figure out your needs.
Before you speak to your employer or human resources, it’s best to take a moment and figure out what accommodations you need to do your job well. These include:
- More breaks
- Help lifting heavy objects or changing the height of your chair and desk and distance to your computer monitor
- Specialized equipment, such as switching from a mouse to a trackpad, or a writing device to help you grip a pen
Research options and prices ahead of time. And if you can, try any new equipment at home. Your employer is only required to make “reasonable” accommodations for you, which may not mean they have to purchase expensive equipment. But they may be able to get tax deductions and/or tax credits if they do, which is a good incentive.
Talk to your employer.
If you think you need accommodations, schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss how psoriatic disease may affect your work. Explain what the condition is and how it affects you. Let them know if you have frequent doctor appointments that will require you to take time off work.
It’s a good idea to put any accommodation requests in writing. Mention the ADA, and stress how the accommodation will allow you to do your work well. This establishes a paper trail if you have any issues later on.
Don’t push yourself.
Listen to your body. Don’t try to work through pain and fatigue. It can trigger a flare and worsen your symptoms. Set priorities: Order your tasks in importance, and do the ones on the top of your list first. Pace yourself and take breaks when you need them.
Make time for physical activity.
Schedule exercise into your day most days of the week. It boosts endorphins, which enhance mood in people with psoriasis. If you have psoriatic arthritis, physical activity will help ease inflammation and pain.
You don’t have to train for a triathlon. Good choices for people with PsA that won’t overly stress joints include:
Schedule medical leave if you need it.
You may reach a point where you need to take some time off work. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you’re eligible to take 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave. In some cases, you may be eligible under the ADA for more unpaid leave.
If you need more time, or your symptoms are severe enough that you can’t return to work, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. Psoriasis itself qualifies under skin disorders, while psoriatic arthritis falls under immune system disorders.
Get a handle on stress.
Stress is a common trigger for psoriatic disease, so find ways to manage it. Strategies include:
- Before you go to sleep every night, write down three things you’re grateful for.
- If you begin to feel stressed at work, take a deep breath, hold it, and exhale slowly.
- Practice stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, or going to a support group, even if you feel OK. This will give you ways to calm yourself when you do become anxious.