Psoriasis is a chronic life-long autoimmune condition that affects the skin. Exact numbers are difficult to obtain, but it is estimated to affect at least 125 million around the world and at least 7.5 million adults in the U.S.
Psoriasis in America 2016, a new national survey by Health Union of nearly 600 individuals with psoriasis, reveals that although patients have numerous treatment options, they have difficulty finding treatment plans that work. In addition, respondents reported a heavy emotional toll, with many feeling isolated and stigmatized due to the condition.
‘Psoriasis takes a heavy emotional toll on top of the physical symptoms. Conditions can change and treatments can prove ineffective over time or simply stop working.’
There are several different types of psoriasis, with the most common being plaque psoriasis, accounting for about 80% of cases. Plaques are patches of raised, red, and inflamed skin, often covered with a layer of silvery scales. The condition can attack anywhere on the skin and cause itching and burning, and occasionally cracking and bleeding.
There is no cure for psoriasis. Most people with psoriasis cycle through periods of flare-ups and remissions. Flares are often brought on by external triggers. Survey participants reported never knowing when or how often flares would occur or their severity. Sixty-four percent reported flares at least once per month and half of whom experience them daily. Thirty-seven percent said their flare-ups lasted more than three months. The triggers are often difficult to avoid, and the most common reported are: Stress/Anxiety - 82%, Weather - 58%, Infection - 22%.
Treating psoriasis often proves difficult. Respondents report trying plenty of treatment options, but frustration in finding a course that works. Only one in three said they were satisfied with their current treatment plan. Forty percent previously used phototherapy/light therapy, but only 4% currently do. Corticosteroids also show a drop, with 49% previously using verses current usage of 31%. Topical treatments (prescription or over-the counter) show an increase with 36% previously using and 57% currently doing so. The newer biologic medicines are currently used by 26% of respondents.
Howard Chang, PlaquePsoriasis.com community advocate, noted that "finding the right treatment can be difficult for multiple reasons. With psoriasis, conditions can change and treatments can prove ineffective over time or simply stop working. Expense can be an issue, especially if insurance coverage changes or is lost. Many treatments are very inconvenient or come with challenging side effects."
Psoriasis takes a heavy emotional toll on top of the physical symptoms. Fifty-eight percent of respondents wished they would have known the impact psoriasis would have on their mental and physical health when they were first diagnosed. They wished others understood the effects psoriasis can have on their lives, with nearly half feeling they are treated differently because of their condition. 86% feel embarrassed by their psoriasis; 81% said that psoriasis impacts their emotional well-being or they have been depressed; and 66% feel isolated or alone due to their psoriasis.
"The social, relational, and psychological aspects of plaque psoriasis cannot be overstated," said Chang. "People often don't understand the stigma of having a visible condition like psoriasis. In addition, there is the unpredictable nature of the condition. When you don't have the stability that can take quite a toll."
"Our hope is that some of the new medical advances will help more people with psoriasis find an effective course of treatment, and in turn ease the feelings of stigma and isolation many feel. Health Union's PlaquePsoriasis.com looks to be a bridge, bringing together critical information with an accepting community and tools for overall health maintenance," says Tim Armand, President and co-founder of Health Union.
The Psoriasis in America 2016 survey was conducted April 26 - June 18, 2016 with 582 respondents living with psoriasis; of those, 67% were currently diagnosed with plaque psoriasis and 50% with psoriatic arthritis.