Psoriasis is a long-lasting noncontagious skin condition that can cause much discomfort. Because of its unpleasing appearance, psoriasis is often accompanied by stigma. A new study reveals that myths surrounding the skin condition still persist in this era of readily available information.
Characterized by reddish, scaly lesions capable of causing itching, burning sensations, or both, psoriasis affects people's quality of life to a great degree. This and many other myths and ungrounded fears persist to this day in the United States so suggest a new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Beyond having to manage the physical discomfort caused by this disease, people with psoriasis also have to face social stigma based on the misconceptions that their peers may have about the disease. Although psoriasis is not contagious, many people still believe that coming into contact with a person with this condition could have harmful effects.
Stigma Surrounds psoriasis
Researchers decided to find out how many people both from the public at large and among medical professionals still believe myths surrounding psoriasis and therefore avoid contact with those who have this skin condition.
Although it's widely recognized that the appearance of psoriasis can negatively impact patients' social, professional, and intimate relationships, they wanted to quantify the perceptions patients with psoriasis face on a daily basis to understand how pervasive they are.
Researchers also sent all the participants images displaying people with psoriasis, as well as close-ups of psoriasis lesions. While the medical students who responded did not seem to believe in common stereotypes about people with psoriasis, the responses that the researchers received from members of the general public were much less encouraging.
Around 54% of these respondents said that they would not consider dating a person with psoriasis, and 39.4% said that they would not so much as shake hands with someone with the condition. Moreover, 32.3% of the people in this cohort replied that they would not like a person with psoriasis to come into their homes.
Enduring stereotypes seemed to contribute to these discriminating attitudes, as 26.8% of the respondents believed that psoriasis was not a serious condition, and 27.3% of the web service participants thought that psoriasis was contagious. About 57% of the respondents also characterized people with psoriasis as insecure, while 53% said that such individuals were sick and 45% rated them as unattractive.
A need for 'better education'
Still, the researchers note that even among the respondents pertaining to the general public, those who already knew someone with psoriasis, or had some previous knowledge of the condition, believed fewer stereotypes and were less likely to express stigmatizing views.
This, the investigators say, suggests that there is a need to provide people with more and better information about this skin condition, aiming to dismantle pervasive myths and fears. It is possible that better education about the disease, as well as contact with individuals with psoriasis, may help to dispel myths and stereotypes and reduce negative perceptions."
Future studies should evaluate the effects of education campaigns on people's attitudes toward those with psoriasis, as well as efforts to incorporate patients with psoriasis into general medical education for physicians and other healthcare providers.