Conference Coverage

Women’s sexuality diminished by psoriasis



LAS VEGAS – Psoriasis has a negative impact on women’s sexual desire, sexual ability, and sexual relationships, according to Dr. Jennifer Cather of the Modern Dermatology-Aesthetics Center in Dallas.

Dr. Cather and her colleagues are developing a clinical tool to assess the disease’s sexual impact; as part of those efforts, they conducted 60 interviews with moderately to severely psoriatic women with a mean age of 41 years.

The survey results showed that sexuality was clearly another reason why it’s important to keep psoriasis in check. Pain and itchiness during sex, self-consciousness and embarrassment, and avoidance of dating and intimate relationships were among the most common problems the women reported.

Dr. Jennifer Cather

"We really didn’t appreciate the impact psoriasis had on relationships" before the survey, Dr. Cather said at the Skin Disease Education Foundation’s annual Las Vegas dermatology seminar. "The sexual impact has been underappreciated," she said.

Those problems might help explain why women with psoriasis, especially those aged younger than 35 years, tend to have fewer babies, she added. Psoriatic women also have higher rates of induced and spontaneous abortions and are more likely to have preterm and underweight births.

Some of the women surveyed said that they worried about passing psoriasis to their children. "Maybe there’s voluntary childlessness," Dr. Cather said. But when women in her practice mention they don’t want kids for fear of passing on the disease, "I answer right back, ‘You don’t have to have what you have. I can help you with it,’ " she said.

Methotrexate, acitretin, and psoralen photochemotherapy (PUVA) are contraindicated during pregnancy, but ultraviolet B (UVB) treatments are safe, said Dr. Cather. She also uses tumor necrosis factor inhibitors, which are FDA pregnancy category B agents; she prefers etanercept for its short half-life (just over 4 days) and because ob.gyns. are usually familiar with it. The Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) keeps the etanercept and adalimumab pregnancy registries, and "there’s [been] no signal to date" for those drugs, she said.

Psoriatic women should know that the odds are with them for having a normal pregnancy, and that pregnancy is likely to help clear their skin, Dr. Cather said.

But because half of the pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it’s important to discuss pregnancy – and psoriasis treatment during pregnancy – as part of routine care. "It’s difficult if a psoriasis patient calls you in a panic because they’re not sure their drug is safe, and not sure their doctor will let them continue it,’ she said. Some ob.gyns. are comfortable with letting women stay on their psoriasis therapy, while others want them to quit everything, even topical steroids.

"In my clinic, when a psoriasis patient gets pregnant, usually we’ve planned for it and are excited about it, and we’ve had some dialogue with the ob.gyn.," she explained.

SDEF and this news organization are owned by Frontline Medical Communications. Dr. Cather is a consultant, speaker, or researcher for AbbVie, Novartis, Leo, Janssen, Amgen, Celgene, Merck, and Pfizer.