Professor Caitriona Ryan
Consultant Dermatologist, Blackrock and Irish Association of Dermatologists
Chronic skin diseases, such as psoriasis, and common conditions like acne can have a devastating effect on sufferers’ psychological health and their lives at home and work.
Thousands of people suffering with psoriasis and acne also experience psychological distress that has a negative impact on their personal and professional lives.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease that affects about 2-3% of the population. It causes skin irritation, itching and joint pain in up to a quarter of patients but more importantly it can cause significant psychological morbidity and relationship difficulties.
Sometimes patients spend too long trying to solve the condition themselves before seeking medical help.
Consultant Dermatologist, Professor Caitriona Ryan from the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin, has published a textbook on psoriasis and reports that psoriasis patients can suffer from depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
“The onset of psoriasis is typically in the second or third decade, a formative period in the life of a patient – a time when patients are getting into relationships and choosing careers. Psoriasis can have a detrimental impact on their psychological state, social life and quality of life,” she says. “They often recall the difficulties they have faced since childhood. For example, the embarrassment they felt at the swimming pool or when playing with friends.”
Severe acne can also cause significant psychological distress in teenagers and young adults. Without appropriate treatment, irreversible scarring can occur, which further impacts the patient.
Intimacy issues with psoriasis
She adds that psoriasis can affect a person’s confidence and how intimate they want to be with the people they love, especially if the condition also affects their genitals. “It can impact their sexual health and often their sexual frequency.”
Some people with psoriasis can struggle at work
Psoriasis can also affect the career choices of sufferers. Some patients admit to choosing job where they don’t have to deal with the public due to the visible nature of their disease. Absenteeism and the chances of unemployment can also increase.
“There are compelling reasons to make psoriasis and acne treatment a priority when it affects the mental health of young people, especially if the condition is visible on the face, neck, on intimate parts of the body in the case of psoriasis or is causing scarring in acne patients,” says Ryan.
She points out that skin conditions can also cause additional stress because people feel so self-conscious and anxious, and this stress can make the psoriasis or acne worse.
Seek professional help
“I urge people to visit their GP or dermatologist and let their doctor know how their condition is impacting their mental as well as their physical health,” says Ryan. “Sometimes patients spend too long trying to solve the condition themselves before seeking medical help.”