How does psoriasis affect your sex life?

| Melissa Leavitt

Doctors may not always ask you how psoriatic disease affects your sex life. But understanding—and addressing—this issue is an important part of caring for patients, according to Dr. Jennifer Clay Cather, a Dallas dermatologist, in a presentation on March 22 at the American Academy of Dermatology meeting in San Francisco.

So far, there has been little research investigating the impact of psoriatic disease on sex, Cather said. “But sexuality is a big part of our lives,” she said.

To help fill this need, she and her colleagues developed a questionnaire for patients to fill out during their doctor’s appointments. Addressing three core areas of sexuality, including desire, ability and reproduction, the questionnaires are designed to get at the heart of how psoriatic disease affects sexual experience.

To create the questionnaires, Cather and her colleagues interviewed 21 women and 19 men with psoriasis, asking them questions such as whether they felt embarrassed or self-conscious about their body, if they experienced pain during sex, and if they feared passing psoriasis on to their children. After conducting these interviews, the doctors then adapted these questions into something patients could fill out on their own.

When they looked at patients’ responses, Cather and her colleagues found that psoriatic disease can have a far-reaching impact on sexual experience.

“It was very eye-opening to see how much it affected them,” Cather said.

More than two-thirds of patients reported that psoriasis had at least one negative impact on their sex lives, with problems related to body image and pain during intercourse cited the most, according to the results.

Cather said that at first, she and her colleagues were worried that patients wouldn’t want to discuss this issue with their doctors. But ultimately, they found that patients were open to sharing their experiences. In fact, Cather said, many patients were grateful to find that their doctors recognized the extent to which psoriatic disease affected sexual experience.

“When it comes down to it, patients were relieved,” Cather said.

Cather and her colleagues have begun incorporating the questionnaires into their practice, and hope it will be used in more dermatology clinics, Cather said.

Read more about how to treat genital psoriasis

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