The skin disease psoriasis is not contagious. Myths and Stigma associated with the disease psoriasis has led people to avoid social interaction and relationships with patients, including not wanting to date, shake hands, or have people in their homes if they suffer from the disease.
For the first time, new multidisciplinary research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, including psychologists and dermatologists, looks at how widespread this stigma may be among the broader American community as well as among medical students.
The study also discovered that erroneous beliefs regarding psoriasis—such as those that it is communicable and not a serious illness—remain prevalent. Researchers reported the results of their research in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
What is Psoriasis?
More than eight million Americans suffer with psoriasis, a widespread, chronic inflammatory condition that results in unpleasant, thick, red patches of skin that frequently itch and bleed. Additionally, it has a significant impact on life quality in terms of health, and in moderate to severe cases, it raises the risk of heart attack, stroke, and early death. Although it is curable and not contagious, there is presently no treatment for it.
Perceptions of psoriasis are pervasive
“Although it’s widely recognized that the appearance of psoriasis can negatively impact patients’ social, professional, and intimate relationships, we wanted to quantify the perceptions patients with psoriasis face on a daily basis in order to understand how pervasive they are,” said the study’s senior author Joel M. Gelfand, MD MSCE, a professor of Dermatology and Epidemiology at Penn. Rebecca L. Pearl, PhD, an assistant professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, was the lead author of the study.
Using a web-based data collection tool called Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), researchers polled respondents about their opinions about people who have psoriasis. Additionally, they immediately distributed the survey to several hundred medical students.
198 non-experts responded on MTurk in total, and 187 medical students finished the email survey. Pictures of people with psoriasis and up-close pictures of psoriasis lesions were shown to all participants.
Stereotypes about people with psoriasis
Overall, 54% of respondents who were not medical professionals indicated they would avoid dating someone who had psoriasis. 39 percent of respondents stated they did not want to shake hands with those who had the condition, and 32 percent said they did not want people with psoriasis living in their houses.
Additionally, respondents agreed with various clichés about those who had psoriasis: 57% said they were insecure, 53% said they were ill, 45% said they were ugly, and 27% said they were contagious.
Compared to the MTurk group, medical students displayed fewer stigmatising viewpoints. Participants in MTurk showed fewer stigmatising attitudes when they knew someone with psoriasis or had heard about it.
Better education and contact with individuals with psoriasis can help dispel myths
“It’s 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,” Pearl said.
Before reaching any firm conclusions, the researchers emphasised the need for additional study with a bigger sample size. The results, they claimed, do have consequences for both patient treatment and public health.
“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 health care providers,” Gelfand said.
Materials provided by University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Rebecca L. Pearl, Marilyn T. Wan, Junko Takeshita, Joel M. Gelfand. Stigmatizing Attitudes Toward Persons with Psoriasis Among Laypersons and Medical Students. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaad.2018.08.014
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “Stigmatizing views and myths about psoriasis are pervasive in the United States.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 August 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180830102537.htm>.
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