Skin care goes more than skin deep

By • Published: June 23rd, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Chronic inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne, eczema and vitiligo not only take a physical toll on patients but also a psychological one. Effective management addresses both types of symptoms.

Inflammatory skin conditions affect men, women and children of all races and require continuous treatment. Topical and hormonal dermatology therapies can provide some physical relief, and cosmetic preparations can help mask symptoms. But treatment often doesn’t produce desired results, and that can lead to frustration, disappointment and emotional distress. That stress, in turn, can trigger flare-ups or worsen the skin condition.

Researchers have found that educating patients about their disease and available treatments can boost patient satisfaction and compliance with treatment regimens, and improve health outcomes. A Belgian group recently examined how well a holistic support and training program might help improve patients’ understanding of their skin conditions and elevate their quality of life.

Patients were enrolled in a 12-week group program in which they received instruction from a team including a dermatologist, nurse, pharmacist, psychiatrist, dietitian, philosopher, sports trainer and yoga instructor. Patients received medical information about the skin and about specific diseases. They were also taught physical activities and meditation-based stress-reduction techniques. They were given information on lifestyle factors that could affect their skin, such as diet, sleep, smoking and substance abuse, too.

Patients reported having better quality of life with regard to their skin condition after completing the program. So treating the invisible symptoms of skin disease can be just as important as addressing the ones you can see in the mirror.