Chronic diseases, the psychological impact of skin conditions

Chronic skin diseases may not be as serious as other chronic diseases, but they do have a negative impact on the life of patients. The extremely visible symptoms cause patients to experience significant psychological and social distress, an aspect that physicians must take into consideration during therapy. 

Most common chronic skin diseases

It is not easy for any patient to watch their body change before their eyes, an experience that causes great unease.  It is even more difficult to accept these changes when the skin condition becomes chronic. Unfortunately, this is the effect chronic skin diseases often have, even if each type of disease is different with very different symptoms.  The most common disorders include:

  • Vitiligo
    More common in women, vitiligo causes patchy loss of skin pigmentation due to a lack of melanin. This disease can cause great psychological distress for patients, especially when it affects the face. Vitiligo tends to progress with time and in 74% of the cases, it slowly spreads to other parts of the body.
  • Atopic dermatitis
    Inflammation of the skin that causes rashes and intense itching (the itching often makes the inflammation worse). It’s a very common disease, especially in people with a predisposition to allergies such as asthma, hay fever and food allergies. The causes are still unclear, but there appear to be different genetic and environmental factors that provoke the disease. There is no definite cure, but it is a known fact that cigarette smoke and overweightness significantly increase symptoms.
  • Psoriasis

A chronic disease that not only affects the skin, but also several organs and  systems including joints, the cardiovascular system and the glucose and fat metabolism. Symptoms include itching, redness and silvery scales on the skin, burning, stiff joints, soreness, swelling and joint deformity. It mainly affects the elbows, the scalp, knees, back and chest. It is one of the most common chronic skin diseases that effects on average 3% of the world population.

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More than symptoms to cure

Each of these chronic skin diseases greatly effect a patient’s quality of life, especially because of their altered self-image.  More severe cases bring about an even greater psychological impact on the patient, with consequences on both a patient’s social and professional life. Insecurity, embarrassment, and even shame, create constant distress in interpersonal relationships, making these diseases just as disabling as more severe chronic diseases. Similar to other chronic diseases, patients can become depressed. Each of these aspects contribute to making chronic skin diseases a social problem just as much as it is a medical problem. For this reason, the psychological aspects of these diseases must be taken into consideration when prescribing a therapy. Courses of treatment, in fact, must not only have the objective of reducing symptoms, but of helping the patient adapt to the disease, improving his or her ability to carry out normal daily activities. In a few words, therapy should focus on the general well-being of the patient. This is a holistic approach to medicine that is rapidly becoming widespread in the treatment of all chronic diseases, not just skin disorders, and is a fundamental aspect of special services for patients, such as Domedica’s Patient Support Programs (PSPs). PSPs offer customized and personalized assistance at 360° that take both the physical as well as the psychological and emotional conditions of a patient into consideration.

© Domedica s.r.l.

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