Impact of psoriasis could be more than skin deep
21:21 GMT, 30 June 2012
The impact a skin disorder such as psoriasis can have on mental health is too often underestimated by GPs and non-sufferers.
Those with psoriasis have higher-than-average rates of depression and suicide, and difficulties with employment and relationships.
Skin deep: Psoriasis might be on the surface but it's effects can run far deeper
How can a skin disease affect one’s mental health
A visible, often disfiguring disease such as psoriasis has a multitude of psychological and social effects.
It often starts in the teenage years, just as a person is developing a sense of self and when self-esteem is critical. Research has shown that in the UK, more than 300 suicide attempts are attributable to psoriasis annually.
Is there help available for those with skin-related psychological problems
The impact of psoriasis on mental health is now being recognised. In hospitals with centres of excellence for psoriasis, such as London’s Royal Free, psychologists are employed to help people with the effects.
Patient groups such as the Psoriasis Association and the Touch Programme (touchpsoriasis.co.uk) also provide support.
Why are treatments for psoriasis not improving
Psoriasis is not curable, but treatments have improved over the past few decades and it can be put into remission with a good regime of care that targets the immune system.
Patients should always be cared for by a dermatologist, with back-up from a GP.
Those with psoriasis have higher-than-average rates of depression and suicide, and difficulties with employment and relationships
How many people are affected by psoriasis
Up to one person in 50 has psoriasis, but milder cases may go undiagnosed or be misdiagnosed as dermatitis or dry skin.
In some cases, only a patch of skin is affected. Psoriasis typically appears between the ages of 15 and 30, and is more common among Caucasians.
While the cause is unknown, it can be aggravated by stress, smoking and certain medications.
Does psoriasis just affect the skin
No, unlike other skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis has symptoms in other parts of the body too, including the joints and the nails, and ten per cent of sufferers have arthritis associated with the condition.
Severe cases are also linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.