Women Carry a Heavy Burden when Diagnosed with Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a skin disease that is characterized by inflammation (pain, redness, heat, and swelling) and scaling. While skin cells normally grow deep in the skin and rise slowly to the surface in about a month, in a person with psoriasis, this process is accelerated to just a few days. The cells rise too quickly and pile up on the skin’s surface.
Psoriasis Appearance and Location
A psoriasis breakout looks like patches of thick, red skin that has silver-colored scales. The patches may feel sore or itchy. This skin condition can affect the following areas of the body:
- Lower back
Less common places where a person may find patches of psoriasis include the fingernails, toenails, inside of the mouth, and genital area.
Psoriasis by the Numbers
These statistics were provided by the National Psoriasis Foundation:
- Approximately 2.2 percent of the population in the U.S., or 7.5 million people, live with psoriasis.
- Between two and three percent of the world’s population (125 million people) have psoriasis.
- According to research studies, 10-30 percent of people living with psoriasis also develop psoriatic arthritis, a particular form of rheumatoid arthritis.
- One person in three who has psoriasis reports having a relative with the disease.
- If one parent has psoriasis, a child has a 10 percent chance of having it as well. If both parents have the disease, the likelihood of a child developing it increases to 50 percent.
Emotional Impact of Psoriasis for Women
Since women know they are still judged for their appearance in many situations and feel pressure to look attractive to others, discovering that they have psoriasis can be very challenging. According to a report released by the National Psoriasis Foundation, 20 percent of women said that the disease “looms over” their everyday lives. Only 12 percent of men reported that their psoriasis had the same degree of interference in their life. Approximately 60 percent of women stated that their psoriasis interfered with their “quality of life.”
Younger women (under the age of 40) are particularly hard hit by being diagnosed with psoriasis. They are working to establish themselves in their career, as well as to find a mate and to fit in with their peers in social situations. If they are experiencing breakouts, especially in areas that are difficult to conceal under clothing or with makeup, it can be challenging for them to feel confident to go after opportunities for advancement at work or putting themselves forward in social situations.
Higher Risk of Becoming Depressed
Both men and women who are living with psoriasis are at higher risk of becoming depressed. This mental health condition has been referred to as “the common cold of mental illness,” but that doesn’t mean it should not be taken seriously. The following symptoms should be discussed with a doctor:
- Inability to focus
- Reduced interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
- Low energy
- Difficulty getting out of bed
Depression can be treated with medication, as well as “talk therapy.”
Psoriasis is an Ever-present Part of Life
For a woman living with psoriasis, her skin condition is something that can be constantly preying on her mind. It can shape decisions when she shops for clothing, whether she goes to a salon to get her hair styled or if she feels comfortable going to the beach.
Outbreaks can leave a woman feeling angry, embarrassed, or out of control. She may resent other women who do not have to deal with the same skin issues or have difficulty finding cosmetics to cover outbreaks on her face. If the scaly patches are on her hands or arms, she may not feel confident meeting new people or dealing with existing coworkers, friends, or family members.
With proper medical help, psoriasis can be treated. Medications or herbal supplements may be used for this purpose. Topical ointments may be applied directly to the skin to help deal with the itching and scaly skin during a breakout. A woman who is feeling depressed due to her psoriasis would likely benefit from some counseling to learn Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques to change the way she thinks about her skin condition and herself to learn coping strategies to feel more comfortable when dealing with others.
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