Psoriasis

Being at school or university, studying and psoriasis

Not everyone we spoke to had psoriasis while they were in education (school, college, sixth form, university), but those who had found it could cause extra problems and considerations.
Some of the issues people experienced include: 
  • symptoms, such as itchiness, or side effects from treatments made it hard to concentrate or take part in classes
Some found symptoms like red and flaky skin attracted unwanted attention from others. Lucy, Louie and Abbie said skin flakes used to show up clearly on their school uniforms. Lola sometimes gets distracted from her studies with picking at her skin. Being kept awake because of itchiness or discomfort had knock-on effects the next day (see also sleep). Side effects and the appearance of treatments can make people feel self-conscious. This can include the look as well as the smell of topical treatments and sunburn from phototherapy. For some, their social life at university was affected by their treatments, side effects and restrictions (such as not being able to drink alcohol when taking methotrexate).
  • coping with triggers from studying, including stress about exams
Dietary triggers (including alcohol) were an issue talked about by some people at university. Russell finds his skin is more likely to flare-up if he’s been “up late, eating rubbish, getting stressed about work” but, at the same time, he doesn’t want to miss out on enjoying university life. An exception to having exam stress as a trigger for psoriasis was Steven who said “in fact it got better at one point during exam time”.
Some people had been bullied and experienced mean comments from other pupils at school about their skin. Other pupils use to stand on Zara’s feet, where she has psoriasis, which was painful. Abbie moved schools because of bullying. Sofia started wearing a hijab during secondary school and the teasing about her psoriasis stopped. Most people who had experienced hurtful comments said they came from other pupils, but a few had been from teachers. Being around other people (pupils and teachers) could be a source of worry for those who felt insecure about their skin. Simon has had psoriasis since he was 17 and thinks it can make you feel like “an easy target” and “an outcast”. The anxiety for Adam about his psoriasis was so bad that he missed university lectures and exams.
Some found there wasn’t enough time in the mornings to use topical treatments before going to school/lectures, especially if they had to wait a long time for the cream to absorb before putting clothes on. A few people took emollients to classes to apply during the day, but it wasn’t always easy to find somewhere comfortable to put them on. Megan couldn’t go on her residential trip when she was younger because she needed her mum’s help to apply the creams. During a flare-up, Russell keeps a bottle of moisturiser on his desk when he’s studying at home to use throughout the day. Some people pointed out that topical treatments can be greasy, making it difficult to write or type. Jack didn’t have much of a treatment routine whilst at university but finds this is easier now he’s working.
Missing out on lessons was a big worry for those who had exams coming up, such as for Zara and Louie. Those who had phototherapy usually went for sessions 2-3 times a week. Appointments were sometimes scheduled so that people didn’t miss out on too much school or university, but it wasn’t always possible. Adam’s phototherapy appointments were timed so he could go on his way home from lectures. Damini waited until her summer holidays before starting phototherapy so that it didn’t interrupt school.
  • extra support – including for exams, on school trips and during classes. 
Zara had lots of time off school and appreciated the support she received when she went back. She could go to a place to unwind, catch up on work, take off her shoes and “then [the school will] introduce you back into lessons”. Some people thought it would be good to have more support with catching up on missed classes. Louie says some of his teachers are understanding and he can talk to them about how his psoriasis affects him. He trusts that they won’t share what he says with other students or teachers.
Physical Education (PE) classes were talked about by lots of people. Some couldn’t take part regularly because their psoriasis was too painful or because they felt self-conscious about others seeing their skin. A few people were allowed to wear different clothes, such as Zara who wore trainers to protect her skin when the other pupils went bare foot. Megan changed in a separate room because “I was scared they’d see my skin”. Swimming was often avoided because chlorine can be a trigger. A few people had requested not to take part in PE lessons: some said their PE teachers understood this, but others didn’t feel they were supportive.
There were lots of positive experiences about school and studies too. This includes: supportive friends; meeting other students with psoriasis; enjoying classes and extra-curricular clubs; and feeling good educating others about psoriasis. Megan and Lucy focused on psoriasis in their assignments to raise more awareness and understanding about the condition. A few people learnt more about psoriasis through their studies. Ella and Sofia found biology lessons helped them understand psoriasis. Louis is a medical student and feels his experience helps him to better appreciate the ‘patient experience’ of skin conditions. Lisa used her university library access to look up some medical articles on psoriasis causes and triggers.

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