islamabad - Health experts have called for raising public awareness of psoriasis — a disease that causes raised, red, scaly patches to appear on the skin — to realise how it affects people’s social and mental health, requiring timely medical intervention.

According to the experts, more than 125 million people worldwide are affected by psoriasis.

Civil Hospital head of dermatology Prof Dr Zarnaz Wahid said: “For many people, psoriasis is still a relatively unknown disease. There is a dire need to raise public awareness of the debilitating disease, dispel the myths and seek proper treatment.”

According to the Pakistan Psoriasis Foundation, the ability of approximately 60 percent women and 52 percent men to enjoy life has been affected by psoriasis.

According to a survey, out of 5,000 psoriasis patients in the country, 20 percent women and 12 percent men said that psoriasis was a major problem in their everyday life.

“Overall, women have a much more difficult time dealing with the psychological and social issues associated with psoriasis,” she said. “Psoriasis patients feel that people including doctors underestimate the overall impact of the skin disease on their lives. It is evident that the disease burden extends beyond the physical symptoms experienced by a patient,” Dr Zarnaz said.

She said that patients with skin disease are greatly vulnerable to depression and anxiety. Psoriasis appears to have a greater impact on women’s lives, she said.

Jinnah Hospital Lahore Consultant Dermatologist Dr Tariq Rasheed said: “Patients believe that the disease is not curable and will cause them permanent disfigurement and greatly impact their social life.”

He said that the general perception was that it was a highly infectious disease, however, it was not the case.

“Unfortunately, general physicians are mostly unable to diagnose the disease accurately, while they do not follow international guidelines and recommended treatment options. And they do not focus on patient education and proper counseling,” Dr Tariq said.

“Skin problems are generally the most common diseases seen in primary care settings all over the globe and its prevalence ranges from 20 to 50 percent in developing countries,” Dr Tariq said, adding there was a common misperception that skin diseases were less dangerous than other medical illnesses.

“This can be attributed in part to the fact that skin disorders are often chronic but not life-threatening and so the perceived impact on the patient is more likely to be minimised in the minds of health professional and the general public,” he said.

Capital Hospital Islamabad Associate Dermatologist Dr Uzma Ali said that psoriasis has a bimodal age of disease onset. The first peak is around late teens to the early twenties and the second peak is around 50 years. “Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory, immune-mediated disease in which one-third of patients suffer under the age of 18 years,” she said.

She said that the exact pathogenesis of psoriasis has not been completely discovered, however, it is agreed that psoriasis has a genetic basis. She said that there are other diseases associated with psoriasis. “Psoriasis can also cause inflammation of joints, which is known as psoriatic arthritis. Almost 10 to 15 percent of people with psoriasis have psoriatic arthritis, which can even lead to disability and dependence in patients.