Psoriasis and mental health: Know how this skin disease is linked to stress

The theme for World Psoriasis Day 2022 is mental health, an aspect that has for long been ignored in the treatment of skin problems. Psoriasis is a common chronic skin disease which affects 2 percent of the population. Apart from skin, it may involve nails and joints. Though psoriasis can be effectively controlled, unfortunately there is no treatment which can fully cure it. When it comes to women, psoriasis needs extra care because they may be embarrassed by visible skin lesions and worried about how it will affect their pregnancy. Naturally then, it can affect their mental well-being.

Health Shots reached out to Dr Neena Khanna, Head, Department of Dermatology, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad, to know about psoriasis and how it may be connected to stress levels.

“As doctors, we want to lay emphasis on the fact that our patients should not suffer in silence. They should talk and clear myths about psoriasis,” Dr Khanna tells Health Shots.

stress due to psoriasis
Stress is common among people with psoriasis, but it can make the problem worse. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Facts about psoriasis

Patients with psoriasis have itchy scaly red skin lesions. Though any part of body can be affected, some sites like pressure sites, scalp, back of arms, front of legs and back are more prone. Psoriasis gets worse in winter though some patients have summer exacerbation. Almost half of the patients have nail involvement and about 10 percent of patients have joint pains.

Psoriasis treatment may involve topical medicines, phototherapy and/or systemic drugs depending on severity and site of the disease and how much the disease is affecting the patient’s quality of life. One may need to try out different combination of treatments to reach optimum results. Whatever medications are used, they need to be taken under supervision of dermatologist. Patient should regularly follow-up with the doctor.

Link between psoriasis and mental health

The ‘brain-skin connection hypothesis’ talks about the intricate relationship between stress and skin diseases, says Dr Khanna.

“Skin cells are activated by stress and release certain hormones and inflammatory chemicals which may lead to psoriasis. Recently, doctors have adopted a holistic approach in treatment of psoriasis which includes not only medicines but lifestyle modification, dealing with stress and alleviating stigma around it,” she adds.

Stress and psoriasis are often linked to each other. Dr Khanna cites that 80–90 percent of people with psoriasis say that stress makes it worse.

Recent research has shown that people who have had a stressful event in the past year are more likely to get psoriasis. People with psoriasis can also feel stressed. So it is very important for people to learn how to deal with stress from psoriasis.

There are healthy ways to deal with the stress of fighting psoriasis. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How to deal with stress due to psoriasis

The patient’s family needs to be there for him or her emotionally, and studies have shown that both meditation and yoga help people respond better to treatment, says Dr Khanna.

When psoriasis is bad, it can cause anxiety, depression, and the harmful use of alcohol.

Even though psoriasis itself isn’t life-threatening, it can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, and heart problems that need to be fixed by making changes to one’s lifestyle.

This is why it’s important to stress the importance of physical activity and losing weight.

Treatment of psoriasis

Scaly, cracked, dry skin can sometimes be itchy and hurt. Patients need to keep putting lotion on their skin often. They can use moisturizers that their doctors give them or moisturizers that they can buy over the counter, like Vaseline or coconut oil.

Some patients also rely on Ayurveda treatment for psoriasis.

psoriasis treatment
Women must take special care about psoriasis treatment. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

There are more things to consider when treating psoriasis in women.

Psoriasis can change during pregnancy. About 50 percent women experience in psoriasis flare during pregnancy while there may be worsening of symptoms in 10-20 percent women. It is also important to be careful about the treatment taken as some drugs have harmful effect on pregnancy. So it is important for patients to consult a dermatologist while planning for pregnancy.

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