Job seekers and employees worry about a thousand things—from wearing the right clothes and saying appropriate things during a first interview, to performing their responsibilities and duties well once employed.
People with psoriasis worry about one more thing––their skin.
Healthy, clear skin can make a positive and lasting first impression. Red, itchy, scaly skin1,2 that sheds all over the furniture can also make a lasting first impression, and not a good one. This concern makes the job search or the workday infinitely more stressful for someone diagnosed with psoriasis.
Psoriasis in the workplace3
A study by the University of Houston shows that people with visible skin conditions aren’t always successful when searching for new work. The study also found that hiring managers may be distracted by the condition and find it difficult to maintain eye contact with the applicant. This distraction makes it difficult for potential employers to remember details from the interview. It could lead to a failed job outcome and this experience can leave applicants feeling even more self-conscious about their skin, to the point where they develop mental health challenges.
Those already in the workplace face additional challenges. “I wear suits to the office to cover up my skin,” said Gregory Matthews*. “When you get up from your chair, at your desk or after a team meeting, and see scales all over the place, it affects your ability to interact with people and be natural because you’re conscious of who you are,” he added.
What is psoriasis?1,4,5
Psoriasis is a chronic and inflammatory condition. People with psoriasis often have red patches with thick silvery scales on their elbows, scalp, and knees. Not only does psoriasis look painful, it’s dry, inflamed, itchy and uncomfortable, and in severe cases, it bleeds.
“Psoriasis can initially be mistaken for dry skin, but if, over time, you don’t see an improvement, it may be time to consult a dermatologist,” said Dr Imraan Jhetam, a dermatologist based in Durban.
“Psoriasis doesn’t discriminate and can affect people across racial lines, men, women, and children. Unfortunately, it often presents in young adults, between 15 and 25 years, when they’re trying to enter the workforce,” he added.
More than skin deep
People with serious psoriasis have a higher risk of earlier mortality6 than those who don’t have the condition as psoriasis goes deeper than the skin. Many people are also overweight, live with diabetes melllitus, high cholesterol, and many experience mental health conditions, such as low self-esteem and depression.1,2
Here are four ways to help navigate the workplace for people with psoriasis.3,4,5,7
1. Talk to your managers
Whether you have doctors’ appointments or need to take sick leave due to pain, let your managers know about your condition. Be open and share information on psoriasis to help them better understand what you’re going through.
2. Practice self-care
Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Find a balance between work and life, and when you’re under stress or exhausted, take a break. Do light exercise, eat nutritious meals, and get enough rest.
3. Take care of your mental health
Anxiety and depression make symptoms worse, and flare ups can make you more anxious and depressed. Take care of yourself. Ask your doctor for treatment for anxiety and depression. Manage your stress with meditation or yoga or join a support group. Talk to your loved ones and your doctors. Get the help and support you need.
4. Treatment to achieve clear skin
Although there is no cure for psoriasis, treatment is available, such as creams, ointments, light therapy, and oral medication. Ask your doctor about a biologic therapy that can achieve clear skin.
“The earlier a person is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcomes and the higher the possibility of achieving clear skin,” said Jhetam.
“My psoriasis was getting progressively worse, and I had to do something,” said Matthews who is now being treated with a biologic therapy that has cleared up his skin and he is finally living a normal life. “I have clear skin for the first time in my life,” he added. “My skin is better than I ever thought was possible.”
Psoriasis shouldn’t make finding employment and thriving at work impossible. Clear skin is achievable. Seek medical help from a dermatologist, and get as much information on your condition as possible. Remember, information is power. You can also learn more about psoriasis, and how to support a loved one living with the condition, by joining the #MoreThanSkinDeep Facebook Community. CP-278044
*Patient’s name has been changed to protect their privacy.