Psoriasis treatment usually focuses on the skin. However, psoriasis patients often have other physical diseases that can bring on depression, anxiety, and suicide.

These other somatic diseases have even more impact on patients’ mental health than their skin symptoms, highlighting the importance of holistic patient care, a recent study suggests.

Psoriasis is a lifelong disease. The body produces skin cells too quickly, which build up on the skin’s surface in the form of inflamed red, painful, itchy scales. Many people with psoriasis have other physical diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

“What we didn’t know before is how psoriasis skin symptoms and other somatic diseases associated with psoriasis impact mental health,” says Marcus Schmitt-Egenolf, Dermatologist and Professor at Umeå University, in a media release.

The study, published recently in JAMA Dermatology, was conducted between 2017 and 2019. In the study, researchers from Umeå University, Sweden, compared nationwide data from about 100,000 individuals with psoriasis but without earlier mental diseases in Sweden to a control group without psoriasis.

Previous research suggests that people with psoriasis suffer more often from somatic and mental diseases compared to individuals without psoriasis. This new study confirmed this, per the release. The study also investigated how psoriasis skin symptoms and associated somatic diseases impacted mental health, considering anxiety, depression and suicide together.

The study suggests that skin symptoms have an important impact on mental health, but that other somatic diseases associated with psoriasis can cause even more harm to mental health.

“We found that skin symptoms increased the risk of mental illness by a third, while other physical illnesses doubled the risk among psoriasis patients,” says Kirk Geale, PhD candidate at Umeå University. Study results indicate a 32% increase risk of mental illness caused by skin symptoms and a 109% increased risk of other somatic illnesses.

In light of the study’s findings, the researchers encourage people with psoriasis to talk with their doctors more about symptoms beyond the skin, both physical and mental. They also encourage doctors to proactively discuss these issues with their patients.

“I would be delighted if our study could support the trend towards a more holistic view on psoriasis care. At the doctor’s office, lifestyle factors should be discussed in the awareness that individual responsibility may be limited by available personal and community resources. Such an approach may improve the complete triad of psoriasis – skin symptoms, somatic and mental health alike,” Schmitt-Egenolf concludes, in the release.

[Source(s): Umeå University, EurekAlert]