Background: Many studies have addressed the impact of psoriasis on quality of life, but few studies have investigated patient perception of the disease or the patient-physician relationship. As with most chronic diseases, improvement in the patient-physician relationship may be important in the proper management of patients with psoriasis. Objectives: To assess how psoriasis and its treatments are subjectively experienced by patients as well as patient expectations with regard to the patient-physician relationship. Methods: A discussion agenda for 'focus group meetings' was organized by a group of sociologists, psychologists, educators, researchers, and clinicians active in the field of psychodermatology. Four meetings were held in Northern and Central Italy and participants included one moderator and either eight dermatologists or eight patients. Discussions were based on a predefined agenda and included: (i) the psychological representation of psoriasis; (ii) the hetero- and self-perception of the patient; (iii) the patient-physician relationship; and (iv) the development of an educational intervention for dermatologists in order to improve the patient-physician relationship. A questionnaire, based on the information gathered at the focus groups, was administered to 323 patients with moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis from 17 dermatology clinics throughout Italy. Results: Three hundred patients completed the questionnaire. Psoriasis elicited anger, annoyance at the inconvenience of the disease, and irritation in approximately 50% of the patients, whilst 38% of patients were unable to describe their emotional state. Aspects of life that were limited by psoriasis included clothing (57%), social interactions (43%), and personal hygiene (31%). The disease was often seen by patients as incomprehensible, incurable, and uncontrollable. More than half of the patients stressed their need to be listened to by the treating physician, and their wish that the physician should use simple language and should improve their psychological skills and interpersonal communication techniques. Conclusions: Dermatologists need to convey to patients with psoriasis the feeling of 'understanding the disease,' of hope about its curability, and the 'perception of control.' These elements should be taken into account when treating patients and whenever educational interventions are planned.
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