Study: Genital psoriasis wreaks havoc on sex life

| Melissa Leavitt

Whether it’s an ignorant comment or a rude stare, many people with psoriasis have had uncomfortable interactions with strangers. But sometimes the most difficult experience a psoriasis patient can face isn’t with a stranger at all, but with the person they know best—their romantic partner.

A study published in March in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology highlights the negative impact that psoriasis—in particular, genital psoriasis—can have on a patient’s relationships and sex life.

Researchers studied the impact of psoriasis on sex and relationships in 354 patients, about two-thirds of whom had genital psoriasis at some point in their lives, according to the study.

Results showed that having any form of psoriasis made relationships and intimacy more difficult, but people with genital psoriasis were particularly affected, said Dr. Caitriona Ryan, the lead author of the study and a dermatologist at Baylor University Medical Center. 

Almost half of patients with genital psoriasis told researchers that their disease made sex more painful and caused them to have sex less often. More than a third also reported that their genital psoriasis became worse after having sex, according to the findings.

The most important thing patients can do to treat their genital psoriasis, Ryan said, is to tell their doctor about it.

“They need to bring this up,” Ryan said. Their doctor can tell them which treatments are safe to use on the genital area, and point them toward better options if the first treatment they try doesn’t work, she said. 

Ryan said she typically prescribes a mild to moderate potency steroid for patients to use on the genital area. Using a lubricant during sex could also make sex more comfortable and reduce the irritation that could lead to new flares, she said.

Ryan urges patients to discuss this issue with their partner, too. 

“Sometimes, we find that a patient’s partner doesn’t even know about it,” she said. It might even be a good idea for patients to take their partners along to their doctor’s appointments, she added.

Get more tips on treating genital psoriasis.

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