Building awareness of the psychological effects of psoriasis

by Michael Fronstin | Mar 5, 2013

Have you ever felt embarrassed or ashamed to leave your house?  Ever hesitate to wear short sleeves or shorts in the summer because you wanted to avoid someone else seeing your skin?  Ever change the way you live your life because of a health-related issue?  If you’re one of the 8 million Americans diagnosed with psoriasis then you probably know what I mean. 

Psoriasis is a disease of the immune system that affects the skin and/or joints. Plaque psoriasis is the most common form and causes raised, red lesions covered by silvery white scales. Moderate cases of psoriasis generally involve having 3-10% of the body affected by lesions, while having more than 10% coverage is considered severe. Because lesions can become quite noticeable, psoriasis often lowers a patient's self-image and results in an emotionally debilitating state of mind.

Psoriasis affects how patients interact with the world. According to Kantar Health’s Psoriasis Syndicated Patient Study, which gathered self-reported information from more than 1,000 psoriasis patients about their condition, 33% of severe patients said their psoriasis has affected their career choice. While 82% of all psoriasis patients said their condition has no effect on their social lives, that percentage decreases markedly by severity. Seventeen percent of severe patients said they prefer to go out only at night, and another 39% said they prefer not to go out at all.

Our study also indicates a decline in health-related quality of life (HRQoL) among psoriasis patients as their disease severity increases. As measured by the SF-12v2, an HRQoL instrument, there’s a clinically meaningful difference in both mental and physical quality of life across mild, moderate and severe psoriasis patients. 

In addition to the effect on patients’ lives, the National Psoriasis Foundation has stated the link between psoriasis and other serious conditions, including heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes, and severe psoriasis can be associated with an increased incidence of psoriatic arthritis, cancer, depression, obesity and other autoimmune conditions.  

Many newer and established treatments are available, and while efficacy and safety are critical to long-term psoriasis management and symptom control patients expect more. Among severe sufferers, 45% expected their treatment to improve their quality of life, but the reality remains that only 38% said their treatment actually resulted in that improvement. One in four severe patients also hoped their treatment’s effectiveness would improve their emotional health, but only 18% said treatment effectiveness resulted in an improvement.

Today’s psoriasis treatments continue to help, but unmet needs persist as patients struggle emotionally and suffer from low quality of life. The industry has recognized the negative effects of psoriasis on patients’ health-related quality of life, and quantifying and communicating this burden can help build awareness among both patients and their physicians.    

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