Emotional impact of dry and itchy skin

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Understanding the emotional impact

By showing you understand the impact of dry and itchy skin on your patients, you can improve your relationships with them and, potentially, the outcomes of their treatment.

A survey by the British Skin Foundation found that skin diseases in general can have a significant psychosocial impact.*

  • Self-esteem
    • 68% of people said a fall in self-confidence was the number one issue caused by their skin disease
  • Work life
    • 42% of people said the second biggest area affected was their work life
  • Relationships
    • 56% of people said making new friends was their third biggest issue
    • 29% of people said their skin disease was an active barrier in finding a partner
    • 20% of people had been bullied regularly

It’s important to recognise that some of the physical consequences of skin conditions could lead to psychological problems e.g. if itching is keeping a patient up at night, they might be struggling with the emotional effects of sleep deprivation as well as the physical effects of the condition.

The emotional impact of dry and itchy skin conditions could also impact patients’ lifestyle choices, e.g. if the patient feels self-conscious, they might stop seeing friends; or children with skin conditions might try and skip school.

* British Skin Foundation online skin disease survey. 729 respondents with skin diseases (2012)

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Supporting patients 1

  • You may wish to ask about the emotional impact of a patient’s skin condition and build this into your consultation structure
  • Take quality of life into account when planning a patient’s skincare management and ensure that the emotional aspect of their skin isn’t trivialised
  • An improvement in skin condition can help to alleviate emotional distress, so encouraging compliance and managing expectations is important
  • Consider referring to NHS support services (like counsellors or psychologists) if necessary; if this is not possible, then consider signposting patients to other organisations for further support

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More information 

Organisations that offer support services or the opportunity to connect with other people affected by dry and itchy skin conditions are listed below:

The National Eczema Society

As the UK's leading eczema patient support organisation, the National Eczema Society's website offers helpful resources for people with eczema and their parents and carers. They also strive to raise awareness with healthcare professionals, teachers and the government.

www.eczema.org

Eczema Outreach Scotland

Eczema Outreach Scotland helps improve the quality of life of people affected by eczema. The charity specialises in supporting children with eczema and their families in Scotland in a variety of ways, from practical advice about school or benefits, emotional support, family outings and peer group support.

www.eczemaoutreachscotland.org.uk

The Ichthyosis Support Group

The Ichthyosis Support Group provides people and parents affected by ichthyosis with an online community to help individuals and families deal with the condition.

www.ichthyosis.org.uk

Psoriasis Association

As the leading UK charity for people affected by psoriasis, the Psoriasis Association shares valuable information for those affected by psoriasis, provides support, and raises awareness for the condition and funds for research.

www.psoriasis-association.org.uk

Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance (PAPAA)

PAPAA aims to provide traditional patient support as well as new innovative approaches that the changing healthcare environment needs.

www.papaa.org

Skin Support

Skin Support, created by the British Association of Dermatologists, offers fact sheets about different skin conditions and emotional support for people with dry or itchy skin. You can also find support groups in your local area.

www.skinsupport.org.uk

References

  1. Hodari KT. Nanton J, Carroll C, et al. (2006). J Dermatolog Treat. 17(3): 136-142

UK/E45-NHS/0317/0004c