Impacts of psoriasis on exercise, social life and hobbies

Psoriasis can impact on exercise, socialising and hobbies in ways such as:
  • symptoms stopping people taking part in sports or other activities
  • avoiding activities which might irritate/trigger the skin
  • not wanting to go out because of feeling self-conscious
  • finding time to fit in treatments around hobbies as well as other activities like studies and/or work
  • being unable to do things because of side effects, like nausea and headaches with some systemic non-biological medicines
  • the cost of prescribed treatments and shop-bought products meaning people couldn’t afford to spend money on social activities
Some people felt they needed to cancel social activities when their psoriasis flared-up, was on visible parts of their body or if they felt low about it. Yet, many people tried to limit how much psoriasis affected their social life and the activities they enjoy. Simon’s advice is don’t “start excluding yourself from social situations”. Some pointed out that activities like yoga can help them relax and worry less about their psoriasis, which might reduce flare-ups. Lola doesn’t like exercise but says “even just going for a walk, I feel so much better afterwards”. Louie goes to football matches as it helps him ‘forget’ about his psoriasis when he’s enjoying spending time with other people.
Exercise and sport

Some people said psoriasis affected their ability to take part in exercise and sports. Activities which trigger or irritate the condition were often avoided. Zara worried about picking up an infection on her feet when going swimming or walking. She had to give up a lot of sports which put pressure on her feet. Other people changed their sport to one that had less effect on their psoriasis.

Swimming was often talked about. Chlorine in the pool water irritated some people’s psoriasis, though not for Louis. Megan finds that chlorine water hurts but thinks it “kills all the bacteria”. Steven says salt water helps his skin.
Feeling self-conscious about others seeing their psoriasis was another factor which put some people off sports or exercise. Zara found it “awkward” swimming and going to the beach because she felt people would stare. Louie was a competitive swimmer but stopped because “I was embarrassed getting in the swimming pool with my skin condition”. He wore a vest when swimming for a while to cover his torso but found it drew attention as he “stood out”. Lots of people talked about this being the case for Physical Education (PE) classes in school. Megan used to change in a separate room or toilet because she was worried that people would see her skin. At school swimming lessons, Lucy and Ella prefer to wear one piece swimming costumes rather than bikinis.
Socialising, hobbies and having fun

Psoriasis can affect many leisure activities, including hobbies and socialising with friends and family such as: going out (to clubs and bars); concerts; walks; drawing/painting; volunteering with a youth group; theatre/acting; dance; army cadets; going to football matches; creative writing; and travelling/going on holiday.

As with exercise and sport, sometimes psoriasis symptoms made it physically uncomfortable or tricky to do some activities. Lucy says she would be self-conscious about taking part in a food workshop because of skin flaking. Some activities involve several triggers combining, such as nights out which might include going to warm clubs, becoming sweaty with dancing and drinking alcohol. Russell cuts out bread from his diet to help his psoriasis, but finds it difficult to resist when he gets home after a night out and wants a toastie. Lucy couldn’t drink alcohol whilst taking methotrexate which affected her social life at university. When her psoriasis was particularly bad one summer, Megan didn’t want to play outside because she worried about damaging her skin and triggering more psoriasis plaques to develop.

In other situations, social activities and hobbies were affected because the person’s confidence was knocked by psoriasis. Damini found it hard to make eye contact when she felt self-conscious about psoriasis on her face. Simon thinks there are times when he seems “distant and aloof” because he’s been worrying about his appearance.
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Choosing clothes for going out and special occasions was a concern for lots of the young women. They wanted to be able to dress up like their friends but sometimes found fabrics uncomfortable or were self-conscious about others seeing their psoriasis. Carys felt “frumpy” wearing clothes to cover up her psoriasis. Abbie asked for a longer bridesmaid dress to cover her legs when her sister was getting married. A few said being unable to shave their legs because of psoriasis also affected their choice of clothes. Zara felt “less feminine” when she didn’t want to wear open-toed shoes to her school disco with psoriasis on her feet and missing toe nails.

Going out to socialise can require planning ahead. This includes finding time to do topical treatments and, for some, to apply make-up to the face and/or body. Some said they had to wait for creams they used daily to absorb. Others planned to their treatments a few days/weeks in advance of a big social event. Some people said social activities disrupted their routines and so they would forget or hold off from doing topical treatments.
For some people, having photographs taken at social events and seeing these on social media added to their concerns about having psoriasis (see also about friendships and emotions). Adam and Damini don’t take or send ‘selfies’ as much when their psoriasis is visible. Simon finds certain angles make his psoriasis more visible and Adam says the flash “brings out” the redness in his skin. A few people said they sometimes edit photos to reduce the visibility of psoriasis.

Psoriasis affected holidays and trips away for some people. Many thought holidays to warm and sunny climates helped their psoriasis clear up. Some people had visited famous water sites like the Dead Sea and Lourdes. Damini saw an alternative therapy practitioner when visiting family in India. Zara and Steven said they were less self-conscious when on holiday because “these people aren’t really going to see me again”. Going on holiday with friends could be a worry though – Hannah didn’t want her friends to see her skin in a swimming costume. Sofia mentioned about taking psoriasis treatments abroad (such as steroid creams), for which there are restrictions on flights about carrying liquids/creams and medication. Lisa lived abroad for six months and wasn’t able to continue systemic non-biological medicines without regular blood tests. People on biological injections for psoriasis can’t have live vaccines which are important when travelling to some parts of the world.


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