Managing psoriasis while trying to have a healthy sex life poses more challenges than just dealing with the disease. Experiencing feelings of embarrassment, low self-esteem, and the stigma of living with a visible skin-altering disease is common with psoriasis. All of this can affect your relationships.
Psoriasis is a common autoimmune disorder that affects the skin, it is not just a cosmetic problem. Psoriasis can have emotional as well as physical impacts on all parts of your life.
Talking with doctors about difficulties from psoriasis related to the skin and emotional pain is common but discussing intimacy problems due to psoriasis with doctors can often be a serious issue.
Genital psoriasis is a type of the skin condition psoriasis that you get on or around your genitals. Sometimes that may be the only place you have it. But many people have itchy, red patches on other parts of their body at the same time.
43% of adults with genital psoriasis report a decreased frequency of intercourse.
Most people who experience genital psoriasis have psoriasis on other parts of their body. Rarely does psoriasis affect only the genitals. You may have inverse or plaque psoriasis on the genitals. These can occur in the following locations:
- The crease between the thigh and genital area
- Vulva, penis, or scrotum
- The crease between the buttocks (including the skin around the anus)
- Pubis (skin above the genitals)
- Inner and upper thigh
Psoriasis in these areas often looks different. Patches of inverse psoriasis, the most common type in the genital area, are often bright red, smooth, and shiny. You usually don’t see silvery scales because they rub off when you move.
Talk about it with your doctor
Genital psoriasis is often underdiagnosed due to a lack of communication with healthcare professionals. This increases the risk of inappropriate self-treatment.
Genital psoriasis isn’t an STD, and it’s not catching. But it can change the way you feel about your body and put a damper on your love life. It’s also more uncomfortable and harder to treat than other types of psoriasis.
Genital psoriasis can cause physical limitations to sex, and some treatments can cause sexual dysfunction. Depression and anxiety can also affect your sex life. Understanding this and realizing it sooner is the first step to having an active sex life.
Is there a way to treat it?
Genital psoriasis is difficult to treat and that why it’s important to discuss with your doctor about different treatments options. As it is with all treatment, give it time and patience, even though some treatments don’t show results immediately, it is important to be stick to a treatment plan and give it chance to work.
Typical treatment options include:
- Steroid based creams,
- Vitamin creams
- Eczema treatment creams and products
- Antibiotic gels
- Biological drugs
Additionally, it is recommended to go with general psoriasis treatment options, such as:
These are in general good for your psoriasis, regardless if it’s related to genital psoriasis or other forms of psoriasis.
If you see negative side-effects from a treatment talk to your doctor immediately and discussing stopping or switching to a different treatment option.
Talk about it with your partner
A big part of good sex is being vulnerable. Put your cards on the table well beforehand so you can be in the moment and enjoy it, rather than worrying about what might happen or what your partner is thinking. Simply sharing your concerns can be enough to ease them.
When you’re with someone new, be up front about your psoriasis. Explain that it’s not catching and doesn’t spread through kissing, hugging, or making love.
Tell them what feels good and what doesn’t. If you’re having a flare or sex is too painful, be honest. Sex is only one part of intimacy. Explore other ways of touching and being together instead.
Psoriasis around the genital area can look like a sexually transmitted infection (STI). You may need to explain the cause of your symptoms and reassure your partner that it is not an infection.
Feeling ashamed about your psoriasis is normal but remember that you did not cause this. Psoriasis is not contagious.
Even after talking with our partners, we will face rejection and this is not our fault, or the fault of our partners. It is necessary not to feel stressed because of it and that we are not worthy of love.
If you are feeling less desirable because of psoriasis, engage in some self-care to restore confidence.
Remember, just because you have psoriasis, it doesn’t mean you are not worthy of love.
Don’t let psoriasis in the way of a healthy and active life
Though it might feel like a taboo subject, rest assured that your doctor wants you to have the best quality of life. A good quality of life includes a healthy and functional sex life.
Start by thinking about your clothing style. People often use clothing to mask symptoms such as red, dry, and itchy skin, but certain types of clothing can aggravate skin irritation and trigger flare-ups related to psoriasis. It can become a vicious cycle if you aren’t careful.
Be careful about sweat. It is necessary to shower immediately after sex because it will lower the chance of inflammation of the skin further. Make sure to shower in lukewarm water.
Use lubricants during sex. Lubes help cut down on the friction that can cause sex to be painful. Be careful about selection of condoms because these can both have a negative and positive effects on genital psoriasis.
Thinking about giving up on sex because of psoriasis? Don’t! Explore ways how to make it work.