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Stigmatizing views about psoriasis patients are widespread in the US

Negative misconceptions about psoriasis remain prevalent in the US and may lead people to avoid patients who have symptoms of the condition, according to a study published online ahead of print in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (Aug. 29, 2018).

“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,” said lead author Dr. Rebecca L. Pearl, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, in a press release.

The researchers also observed that false perceptions about psoriasis continue to be prevalent, including the notion that psoriasis is contagious and that it is not a serious condition.

“Although it is 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 senior author Dr. Joel M. Gelfand, professor of Dermatology and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Dr. Gelfand and his colleagues surveyed 198 laypeople and 187 medical students based in the US. All of the survey participants were shown images of people with psoriasis and close up photos of psoriasis lesions.

Overall, 54% of laypeople who responded said they did not want to have romantic relationships with psoriasis patients. Thirty-nine per cent reported that they did not want to shake hands with someone who has psoriasis, while 32% said they did not want to have someone with psoriasis in their homes.

Respondents also confirmed their belief of several stereotypes about people with psoriasis. In total, 57% said that psoriasis patients are insecure, 53% said they were sick, 45% said they were unattractive, and 27% thought that patients were contagious.

Notably, medical students demonstrated less stigmatizing views compared to the participants representing the general public. Furthermore, those who personally knew someone with psoriasis or had pre-existing knowledge about psoriasis displayed attitudes that were less disparaging.

According to Dr. Pearl, further research with a larger sample size is needed before any definitive conclusions can be stated. That being said, the investigators noted that the findings do have implications for both public health and patient care.

“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,” said Dr. Gelfand.

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