The Woes of Genital Psoriasis
Last updated: September 2018
Genital psoriasis isn't talked about much, but it's a harsh and embarrassing reality for many living with psoriasis. Let's face it, our "private-parts" are just that - private - and not many people want to share the intimate details of having psoriasis on their genitals. In 2015, I attended a meeting in Washington, D.C. with the National Psoriasis Foundation where we spoke with the FDA on how living with the disease effects us day-to-day. Our mission was to push for better, safer drugs, with a faster approval rate through the FDA via clinical trials.
During the meeting there was a woman who spoke about her genital psoriasis. Her eyes swelled, and tears rolled down her cheeks as she gave an embarrassing account of being at work with a psoriasis flare of her vagina. She expressed feeling ashamed and embarrassed, having moments where she wanted to scratch but could not, and fearing someone would think she had a sexually transmitted disease.
The effect on intimacy
If genital psoriasis negatively impacts your sex life and quality of life, you are not alone. In a recent study, which researched the issue, 50% of those in the study who have genital psoriasis expressed that this issue negatively impacted their sex life either "very much" or "quite a bit." The biggest complaints included worsening of symptoms during sexual intercourse, decrease in the frequency of sex, and all together avoiding sexual encounters.1
One participant stated the following, "If there’s patches on the penis itself and you get a full erection, then…the skin can tear, so you have to limit [sexual activity] to when that’s not the case. So sometimes you make a calculated decision...as to how badly do I want to engage in this activity...given what the cost is going to be...pain and discomfort post activity for hours and/or days.1" This comment definitely gave me a new perspective on having psoriasis on the genitals. His confession is something I would have NEVER thought about.
Genital psoriasis is tough to treat, but it's not untreatable. The most challenging part is for a patient to actually tell their doctor they have psoriasis on their genitals. Due to the woe's of embarrassment I have found a lot of people don't reveal to their doctors that they are suffering from psoriasis on their genitals, thus they don't receive adequate treatment.
Sadly, some dermatologist aren't asking about this intimate area either. In order to gain some relief from this particular area, you must share with your doctor that it's affected. It's important to remember that topical treatments, which can be applied to your limbs may not be safe for your sensitive areas, so a different medicine may need to be prescribed.
In an interview with the NPF Abby Johnson a Physician Assistant with Delaware Valley Dermatology gave the following tips to help alleviate some symptoms:
- Wear loose fitting undergarments and avoid thongs
- Avoid tight clothing that can cause friction, go for a looser option
- Use a lubricant during sexual encounters2
Does your psoriasis management change with the seasons?