Health Ministry head of dermatology Datin Dr Asmah Johar (centre, in baju kurung) with psoriasis patients at the World Psoriasis Day event in Kuala Lumpur last year. FILE PIC

KUALA LUMPUR: PEOPLE stare at you as if you have come from another planet, ask awkward questions, call you names and chase you out of public swimming pools — these are the least of the problems that psoriasis patients have to endure. 

The public’s ignorance of the condition has added to patients’ suffering, even causing psychological disorder. 

Sofia Lovi Ramasamy

Among psoriasis patients is bank officer Sofia Lovi Ramasamy, 37, who chooses to remain isolated and avoids functions or celebrations. 

“People refuse to shake my hands and they are cautious when they stand next to me. The stares that people give me are as though I am from a different planet.

“Functions, celebrations and festivals are not my favourite because I need to face people and answer their questions. I have also been called ‘Robot’ and ‘AIDS’.

Lesions cause by skin psoriasis on the legs.

“It took me years to accept this and have the courage to speak up for myself,” she said, adding that the condition had hampered her career. 

Sofia was diagnosed with plaque psoriasis when she was 12 and almost 70 per cent of her body is covered with lesions.

“I have experienced mild to severe psoriasis. I was bedridden and could not work for 1½ years as I had arthritis, which came with the condition. 

“I thought my life would end as I had five other complications that caused my fingers to be deformed and limited my neck movement.”

Sofia said she needed at least 30 minutes to ease the stiffness every morning when she woke up. The pain, however, would remain.

Her suffering was shared by Dominic Wong, 42, who was diagnosed with guttate psoriasis since he was 27. 

“It happened one day when I was at the office and noticed a red spot on my arm. Later, when I reached home, I noticed more spots on my body. They were sporadic and were on different parts of my body. 

“I went to see a dermatologist, who diagnosed me with the skin condition. Like other patients, I, too, was shocked,” he said. 

Wong said public misconception that the illness was contagious and the way those with the skin illness were treated had left a huge emotional impact on patients. 

Dominic Wong

“One of our friends had a flare-up on his hands and arms.

“He was at a grocery store and the cashier, who saw his condition, was so afraid to return the change. He placed the money on the counter instead. 

“Our friend was traumatised by the incident and felt rejected,” Wong said. 

Patients with psoriasis, he added, would not only have to endure discomfort due to the condition, but also embarrassment from the awkward questions posed to them. 

“We feel uncomfortable, especially when the lesions are dry. 

“It is also embarrassing for us to deal with awkward questions.

For example, when people see the chair that we sat on is full of flakes (dried skin), they will ask us about it,” he said.

Psoriasis patients have to bear stares and name-calling in public places due to the public’s lack of awareness about the skin condition.

Despite that, he said, psoriasis patients should not give up. Instead, they should learn as much as they could about their condition and meet fellow patients to share their knowledge. 

“They should learn to adapt. For example, they can buy a thin wetsuit to cover most of their body parts so that they can join sea activities. 

“Explain your condition to friends and colleagues so that they are aware of your situation and can accommodate your needs,” he added. 

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