Empowering psoriatic patients by breaking the stigma surrounding the disease
Around two million Filipinos have been diagnosed with psoriasis, an immune-mediated disease that causes red scaly patches on the skin. What is difficult about psoriasis is that it affects patients not only physically, but also psychologically as it is closely linked to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
After the birth of her third child, 42-year-old Jane Mauricio began developing lesions on different parts of her body. She was later diagnosed with psoriasis.
“My hands, which were supposed to be embracing my child, were suddenly covered with red patches and flakes,” shared Mauricio. “I remember myself as someone who was perfectly happy with her family, her career. When psoriatic plaques started to cover my body, I began to lose my confidence—even my will to live.”
“The way people looked at me told me that they were afraid to come near me, thinking I might be infectious. Everywhere I go, I feared being bullied, humiliated, or rejected. At times, I would get so overwhelmed that I would just choose to isolate myself from the world.”
“The relationship between psoriasis and mental health can be a vicious cycle,” said the head of the Medical Affairs Department of Johnson & Johnson (Philippines), Inc., Dr. Erwin Benedicto. “The amount of unwanted attention patients receive can cause them to develop anxiety and depression in the long run, which can trigger if not intensify psoriasis flare-ups.”
“In addition to the skin, psoriasis can put patients at higher risk of comorbidities such as psoriatic arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. There are also studies that show links between psoriasis and Crohn’s disease, which causes the digestive tract to become swollen. This is why increasing awareness about psoriasis should be a public health priority, as to also encourage more patients to seek proper treatment.”
There is no cure for psoriasis, but there are treatments available to help manage the disease. Johnson & Johnson (Philippines), Inc. is at the forefront of bringing new and innovative solutions for this condition including biologic medicines. The company is also working with relevant stakeholders to launch and sustain programs that educate Filipinos on psoriasis, correcting misconceptions that make living with the disease even more challenging for patients.
“One of our most recent partnerships is with the Department of Health, the Philippine Dermatological Society, and Psoriasis Philippines. Together, we conducted a lay forum entitled Psoriasis: Bigyang Halaga at Pag-aaruga where facts about the disease were highlighted to help alleviate the plight of psoriatic patients.”
“Psoriasis is a lifelong disease, but it is not fatal nor contagious,” added Dr. Benedicto. “Proper treatment and holistic care are needed to ensure that psoriatic patients will continue to lead full, productive lives. It is also our hope that someday, our society would become fully aware of what psoriasis is, to be able to break free from the stigma that fuels discrimination towards those suffering from the disease.”