How Does Psoriasis Affect Your Sex Life?

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.

But it’s possible to have both psoriasis and a healthy sex life. 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 with 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,” explains Ava Cadell, PhD, EdD, a clinical sexologist in West Hollywood, California. “Put your partner at ease simply by explaining what psoriasis is and isn’t.” Discuss your psoriasis before you’re intimate, so it’s not a surprise, Dr. Cadell, founder of Loveology University, advises.

Speak up. Remember that your partner can’t read your mind, Cadell says. Certainly share your turn-ons and turn-offs, but if you have psoriasis, you need to be an even better communicator than someone who doesn’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 says. 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.

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,” says Madelyn Petrow-Cohen, MA, LCSW, SEP, a clinical social worker and psychologist with offices in Maplewood, New Jersey, and Greenwich Village, New York. “This is where you would benefit from focusing on building up a more robust 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. You may be more comfortable with intimacy if your psoriasis is not as easy to see.

Dress the part. Lacy undergarments may help set the mood for sex. Avoid synthetic fabrics, which can be itchy and exacerbate psoriasis symptoms. Garments that are 100-percent cotton will be more comfortable. You can also try underwear made for exercise that helps wick sweat away.

Use lubricants. Cadell suggests using lubricants and topical enhancers. Cooling lubricants are better than warming ones for people with psoriasis, she says. “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 advises. For men with psoriasis on the penis, a lubricated condom may help the skin from becoming inflamed. Coconut oil can be a sensual lubricant and good for psoriasis skin. That being said, coconut oil and other oil-based lubricants should never be used with latex condoms, as the oil can damage the condom and render it ineffective. Avoid lubricants and condoms with fragrance, which may lead to irritation on the cracked and open skin of psoriasis.

Be creative. If you’re having a flare and lovemaking isn’t possible because of the discomfort, find alternatives, Cadell says. “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 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 recommends for women: licorice, which contains plant estrogens and stimulates the sex glands, bringing increased levels of oxygen to the female genitals. Cadell suggests pumpkin pie or pumpkin seeds for men. They’re the top contender to increase penile blood flow. Additionally, chocolate contains a plant substance called phytosterol 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’ll feel better; if you feel better, it’ll 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 notes. 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, says 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.

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