KUALA LUMPUR: The emotional and mental stress experienced by psoriasis patients as a result of social ostracism and public stigma can worsen their skin condition.
Health experts said with an estimated 17,000 Malaysians suffering from the skin problem, more efforts should be taken to create awareness and correct public misconception about the skin condition.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin inflammatory disease that causes new skin cells to grow as rapidly as three to seven days, as compared with the normal 21 to 28 days.
The condition causes one’s skin to thicken, causing redness, itching, scaling and lesions on the body.
In worse cases, patients suffer from arthritis, which causes pain, swelling and stiffness.
Kuala Lumpur Hospital dermatologist Dr Azura Mohd Affandi said there was a need to educate the public that the skin condition was not contagious.
This, she added, was to ensure that the public would not discriminate patients with psoriasis and treat them differently.
“People usually think patients with psoriasis have warts or scabies. They think that psoriasis is contagious but it is not.
“You will not get infected by coming into contact with a psoriasis patient. Psoriasis is related to the immune system and genetics.
“Those with relatives suffering from the disease will have a higher chance of developing the condition.
“But, due to the lack of public awareness, people are treating psoriasis patients differently, causing some of them to develop depression,” she said, adding that to raise awareness about the illness, the world celebrated the World Psoriasis Day on Oct 29 every year.
Adding unnecessary stress to psoriasis patients, she said, would only worsen one’s skin condition.
“Psoriasis can lead to psychological stress because of the stares patients get when they are out in the public. Other factors that could worsen the condition include excessive alcohol consumption, infection, injuries, obesity, hypocalcaemia and intake of certain medicines.
“Those with psoriasis will have to maintain a healthy lifestyle and learn how to manage their stress level or their condition would worsen.”
She said psoriasis could affect people of all ages.
There are five types of psoriasis — plaque (vulgaris), guttate, inverse/flexural, erythrodermic and pustular. Plaque psoriasis is the most prevalent in Malaysia with 80 to 85 per cent of patients suffering from it.
Dr Azura said besides the skin, the disease could also affect one’s nails and joints.
“Data from the National Psoriasis Registry show that almost 59 per cent of cases in Malaysia has abnormality on their nails — there are small holes and their nails become thicker, resembling a fungus infection.
“Almost 14 per cent of Malaysians with the skin disease have problems with their joints, causing stiffness, swelling and progressive joint damage,” she said, adding that although the illness was incurable, there were treatments that could help to control the severity of the condition.
To raise awareness on the disease, the Psoriasis Association of Malaysia will organise a few events, in collaboration with other organisations, in conjunction with the World Psoriasis Day today.
Those who are keen are welcome to join them at University Malaya Medical Centre tomorrow.
There will also be another event at L’Motichan in Bangsar Baru, on Nov 4, organised by Novartis Corporation.