How Does Psoriasis Affect Your Sex Life?
Many people with psoriasis find that their condition negatively affects their sex lives. Here's what to do so psoriasis doesn't stop you from enjoying intimacy.
By Beth W. Orenstein
Medically Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
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Nearly a third of people living with psoriasis have told the National Psoriasis Foundation that their raised, red, scaly plaques negatively affect their sex life and intimacy.
Psoriasis can affect any part of your body. When it affects your genitals — and it can — sex can be uncomfortable. Plus, having visible raised, red plaques anywhere on your body can make you feel self-conscious.
It’s still possible to have both a healthy sex life and psoriasis. It takes being proactive and remaining determined not to let psoriasis stand in the way of having an intimate relationship with the one you love.
Here’s how you can have a healthy sex life and psoriasis:
Talk about it.Explain to your partner that you have a skin condition and that it’s not contagious. “A lot of fear comes from ignorance,” explained Ava Cadell, PhD, EdD, a clinical sexologist in West Hollywood, Calif. “Put your partner at ease simply by explaining what psoriasis is and isn’t.” Discuss your psoriasis before you are intimate, so it’s not a surprise, Dr. Cadell, founder of Loveology University, advised.
Speak up.Remember that your partner can’t read your mind, Cadell said. Certainly share your turn ons and turn offs, but when you have sex and psoriasis, you need to be an even better communicator than if you don’t have a chronic condition. “You need to tell your partner what makes your psoriasis feel worse and discuss what makes it feel better,” Cadell said. You’re likely to find that when you share your own ailments and insecurities, your partner will become more comfortable sharing, too. It can boost intimacy to a higher level and lead to better sex with psoriasis.
Boost your self-confidence.“If your psoriasis plaques are really bad, and people are looking at you like you’re a leper, it’s hard to feel desirable,” said Madelyn Petrow-Cohen, LCSW, a clinical social worker and psychologist with offices in Maplewood, N.J., and Greenwich Village, N.Y. “That’s where you need to beef up your sense of yourself.” Join a psoriasis support group, and you’ll see you’re not alone. You might also find helpful suggestions that work for intimacy in the bedroom.
Keep it dark.If it makes you feel better, dim the lights in the bedroom and use candles, said Cammi Balleck, PhD, of Denver, owner of the Elite Wellness Center and author of Happy, The New Sexy. You may be more comfortable with intimacy and your psoriasis if it’s not as easy to see.
Dress the part.Lacy undergarments may help set the mood for sex. Avoid synthetic fabrics though that can be itchy and exacerbate psoriasis symptoms. Garments that are 100-percent cotton will be more comfortable. Balleck recommended underwear made for exercise that helps wick sweat away. “They do have some cute underwear that’s made for exercise,” she noted.
Use lubricants.Cadell suggested using lubricants and topical enhancers. Cooling lubricants are better than warming ones for people with psoriasis, she said. “Warming lubricants could trigger a flare.” A good way to find out if you’re sensitive to lubricants is to test them on your bottom lip first, Cadell advised. For men with psoriasis on the penis, keep in mind that genital psoriasis is not generally a cause of sexual dysfunction and that a lubricated condom helps skin from becoming inflamed. Coconut oil can be a sensual lubricant and good for psoriasis skin.
Be creative.If you’re having a flare and lovemaking isn’t possible because of the discomfort, find alternatives, Cadell said. “Focus on what is comfortable for you, whether it’s gentle caresses, holding hands, watching romantic movies, or enjoying a romantic dinner. Talk about what you love about each other.” Sex and psoriasis is more than just the act of intercourse.
Indulge in aphrodisiacs.Some foods can help set the mood for sex when you have psoriasis. An aphrodisiac Cadell recommend for women: licorice, which contains plant estrogens and stimulates the sex glands, bringing increased levels of oxygen to the female genitals. Caldwell suggested pumpkin pie or pumpkin seeds for men. They are the top contender to increase penile blood flow. Additionally, chocolate contains a plant substance called phytosteral that mimics human sex hormones.
Follow your treatment.When you follow your treatment plan and take your medication as prescribed, your psoriasis will improve. There is no cure for psoriasis, but medication can help control symptoms. When your treatment is working, you will feel better; if you feel better, it will easier to be in the “mood” with the right partner. After you’ve had sex, take the time to cleanse your genitals and reapply topical medication as needed.
Sex and Psoriasis
Sex is one of the most natural highs there is, Cadell noted. Sex can also help reduce stress, which is a psoriasis flare trigger. Remember, sex is enjoyed between the ears before it occurs between the legs, said Cadell. If you decide not to let your psoriasis get in your way, it won’t, and you will find you can have better sex and psoriasis.
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