Psoriasis and work
- Psoriasis affects the working life of many patients, and can sometimes have an impact on their career path.
- Apart from stress arising from the job itself, a person with psoriasis has to deal with colleagues looking at their lesions.
- Educating colleagues can be a good way of improving quality of life at work.
How will psoriasis affect my working life?
According to a recent survey by the National Psoriasis Foundation (1) in the United States, psoriasis has an impact on the working lives of 26% of people with psoriasis and 48% of those with psoriatic arthritis. 10% of those interviewed had experienced taking one or two days' leave in the previous month because of their psoriasis. 74% of them had been absent from work at some time in order to seek treatment. Other studies published in the British Journal of Dermatology (2, 3) highlight psoriasis-related absenteeism and its impact on patients' careers. Productivity can be affected, as well as social functioning (4). Patients feel uncomfortable with their colleagues and clients simply because they have visible lesions.
How can I manage stress at work?
Work itself can cause a great deal of stress. On top of this, people with psoriasis need to manage their condition and the associated pain and physical discomfort. They sometimes have to cope with the stares and prejudices of their colleagues. Good personal organisation is the key to breaking out of this vicious circle. One way to feel good at work, both physically and mentally, is to use your lunch break to do something pleasant. This could include sports activities or spending an hour reading in the park.Lunchtime can also be an opportunity to chat to a colleague and perhaps, if it feels right, to discuss your psoriasis. If you know when you are most likely to have a flare, try to deal with important matters and arrange meetings during lulls. Above all, a positive approach will help you to stay on top.
Will psoriasis have an effect on my career?
In view of the physical and mental discomfort that psoriasis can cause, people with psoriasis need to think carefully about their choice of career. Jobs in sales, for example, involve a high level of social interaction, which can be stressful. If you are a waiter or chef and your hands are affected, you will need to talk to your supervisor, although he or she may judge that the clientele will not be upset. If you frequently have severe lesions and scale, you should consider a profession where you will not be constantly looked at. But don't forget that people with psoriasis are frequently overly concerned about how their condition will affect others. Your feelings of discomfort are not necessarily proportional to your lesions. Try to get your psoriasis into perspective. If your colleagues and clients do not react to it, try to relax and try to not presume that there is a problem.
Should I tell my colleagues and managers about my psoriasis?
This is a personal decision. It depends on how severe your psoriasis is, its impact on your colleagues and your job. Once you've taken the decision to tell them, think carefully about what you want (and don't want) to say. First of all, raise the subject with your supervisor. Then explain the condition to the colleagues who are most affected by your lesions, absences and so on. Use simple language and stress that you are managing the condition and that it is not contagious and it does not affect your commitment to your work. A study has shown that telling your colleagues that psoriasis is not contagious reduces social discomfort (5).
You can be reassured by the fact that most patients report positive reactions from their colleagues, contrary to their expectations. Once your colleagues are properly informed, they will show more understanding, and by "educating" your colleagues, you are helping to combat their prejudices and preconceptions. Being proactive will help you to feel supported, plan your absences more efficiently and even make it possible to adjust your working hours. And there's no reason why you shouldn't take advantage of career opportunities.
What if I don't want to talk about my psoriasis openly at work?
It is your full right not to talk about your psoriasis openly at work. However, some people report that they feel less anxious and more relaxed after they have been open about their psoriasis. It is important to consider that keeping your psoriasis a secret could increase your anxiety and stress level which may worsen your condition.
1. National Psoriasis Foundation survey panels (Liz Horn)
64th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, San Francisco, California, USA, 3-7 March 2006
2. The impact of psoriasis on quality of life
British Journal of Dermatology 2001; 144 (Suppl. 58): 33-36, L. H. de Arruda, A. P. de Moraes
3. A survey of the social and psychological effects of psoriasis
British Journal of Dermatology 1998; 118: 195-201, B. Ramsay, M. O'Reagan
4. The negative impact of psoriasis on the workplace
Journal of Dermatological Treatment 2006; 17(1): 24-28, D. J. Pearce et al.
5. Social coping strategies associated with quality of life decrements among psoriasis patients
British Journal of Dermatology 2001; 145: 610-616, S. R. Rapp, C. A. Cottrell, M. R. Leary
With thanks to Dr Patrick Brun, dermatologist attached to Cannes University Hospital