How to Cope with Psoriasis At Work

Psoriasis can pose many challenges in the workplace. The visible nature of this autoimmune disease makes it difficult to conceal from coworkers, who may become curious or even mistakenly think the skin condition is contagious. That, in turn, can be very awkward or embarrassing for someone living with the condition. Psoriasis symptoms can also make the work itself more difficult.

Kathleen Carter, a former outreach coordinator for the National Psoriasis Foundation, says that dealing with psoriasis at work can cause stress for people, and that stress can in turn cause the psoriasis to flare.

“Stress is a big trigger, so it becomes a nasty little cycle,” Carter says.

Workers with psoriasis may need to take time off for doctor’s appointments or for phototherapy treatments. Psoriasis symptoms may be so severe that doing your job becomes difficult or you need to stay home.

Deciding when, how, and even whether to discuss your psoriasis with your employer or colleagues isn’t easy. People with psoriasis have to make that decision for themselves, Carter says. In general, however, she believes that it’ll put your coworkers more at ease if you’re open about your condition. Educating others about your psoriasis can also relieve the stress that you may be feeling.

“For a lot of people, it can be a relief to acknowledge it,” Carter says. “Let other people know, ‘I have psoriasis, but it doesn’t impact my ability to be a productive worker. I can still be an asset to our work team.’”

Here are some other things to keep in mind:

Set your priorities. If your psoriasis flares up at work, it helps to prioritize what needs to get done when. Tackle the most important tasks first. That way, if you run out of energy later in the day, less-urgent items on your to-do list can wait.

Stay positive. If you’re having a low-energy day or your psoriasis is flaring up, try thinking positive thoughts. Don’t push yourself too hard, pace yourself through the workday, and don’t let the disease dominate your thoughts.

Check in with your doctor. If you’re not satisfied with your current treatment plan, check in with your dermatologist. There are many new medications to treat psoriasis that are effective. You and your doctor can choose the one that's right for you.

Know Your Workplace Rights

Living with psoriasis may mean that you need certain accommodations at work. You may be on medications that suppress your immune system and make you more susceptible to illnesses. “If you get sick often, you might need flexible hours,” Carter says.

If you have psoriasis lesions on your hands and feet, it could help to ask for an ergonomic workstation or voice-recognition software so that you don’t have to always use a keyboard to type. Fortunately, Carter says, “there are different ways your employer can address your needs to accomplish the basic responsibilities of your job.”

If you need time off for doctor’s appointments or treatments, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may help. If you meet certain criteria, you may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year.

If your psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis is severe, you could qualify for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) website also provides helpful information such as general ADA guidelines and contact information so you can get answers to your questions.

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