GENEVA (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – The great majority of patients with genital psoriasis say their symptoms in the genital area are worse than elsewhere on the body, Kim A. Meeuwis, MD, reported at the annual congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology.

She presented a qualitative study in which 20 patients with longstanding genital psoriasis sounded off, sharing their perspectives on the disease in one-on-one, semistructured, face-to-face interviews.

“It’s not the case that every patient with genital psoriasis experiences worse symptoms, but by far, most patients report that several aspects of psoriasis – including intensified pain and discomfort – are worse in or unique to the genital area,” said Dr. Meeuwis , a dermatologist at Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

Genital psoriasis is common. Epidemiologic studies show 30%-60% of psoriasis patients experience genital involvement at some point in the course of their disease. Yet patients seldom discuss their genital psoriasis with their physicians, and the patient perspective on how the experience of genital psoriasis differs from that of having psoriasis at other locations has been addressed only sparsely in the literature. This lack of attention was the impetus for the current study, she explained.

The 20 participants in the study had an average 18-year history of plaque psoriasis, with an average 7.5-year history of genital involvement. The genital psoriasis was rated moderate or severe in 70% of subjects at the time of the study.

The most commonly reported symptoms of genital psoriasis were itch and discomfort, each of which was cited by all study participants. This was followed by erythema, cited by 95%; stinging and burning, also cited by 95%; pain, cited by 85%; scaling, by 75%; and cracking, by 30%.

Of the patients in the study, 85% reported that their pain and/or discomfort were worse in the genital area than at other sites, and 10% said they were highly self-conscious about their genital psoriasis because others had misidentified them as having a sexually transmitted infection.

Since this was a qualitative study, Dr. Meeuwis provided representative quotes from several patients, including one who asserted, “I really only have discomfort on my psoriasis on the rest of my body … in my genitals is the only place that actually has pain, or the itching is … really, really bad.”

Dr. Meeuwis said the study results hold an important lesson for physicians who treat psoriasis: “Due to differences in patient experiences between genital and nongenital skin, it’s really important to make time for the specific evaluation of genital involvement in taking care of patients with psoriasis – and to be sure to ask about it.”

Dr. Meeuwis reported serving as a consultant to Eli Lilly, which sponsored the study, as well as being on an advisory board to Beiersdorf.