Talking About Psoriasis and Sex With Your Partner

How Psoriasis Affects Intimacy

Talking to your partner about psoriasis and sex can be difficult. Though psoriasis is a common autoimmune disorder that affects the skin, it is not just a cosmetic problem. Psoriasis can have emotional as well as physical impacts on all parts of your life.

Managing psoriasis while trying to have a healthy sex life poses more challenges than just dealing with the disease. Experiencing feelings of embarrassment, low self-esteem, and the stigma of living with a visible skin-altering disease is common with psoriasis. All of this can affect your relationships.

Genital psoriasis can cause physical limitations to sex, and some treatments can cause sexual dysfunction. Depression and anxiety can also affect your sex life. If you are experiencing any of these, know that you are not alone.  

Though it is common practice to discuss your psoriasis symptoms and treatment plan with your doctor, they might not always talk about psoriasis and intimacy together.

If you are learning how to navigate how your psoriasis affects your sex life, you can begin to find answers and support here. This article will discuss the physical and emotional effects, symptom triggers, talking to your partner, and tips for intimacy.

Couple in bedroom

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How Does Psoriasis Affect Sex? 

Psoriasis’ effect on sexual function can be substantial, affecting the physical and emotional aspects of intimacy. Psoriasis causes inflammation in the body. This inflammation often creates raised plaques and scales on the skin. However, the inflammation can affect any organ or tissue of the body.

Psoriasis plaques can occur on the genitals or other body areas where they can cause discomfort when having sex. Having psoriasis can put you at higher risk of sexual dysfunction or make you less inclined to engage in sex due to several factors.

Physical 

Psoriasis is mainly a disease of the skin. However, it affects the entire body (including the heart and cardiovascular system), causing widespread inflammation that can result in a variety of symptoms.

Typical symptoms of psoriasis include:

  • Itching
  • Dryness/cracking of the skin
  • Scaly skin or silvery patches of skin
  • Pitting or discoloration of the fingernails and toenails
  • Pain in the joints

These symptoms can affect your sex life, not just because they may get in the way but also because they affect your emotional state. Having your appearance changed by the disease can cause you to feel less desirable or lower your self-esteem.

Dealing with pain can make the idea of engaging in sex seem exhausting. The psoriasis plaques may be located in places where simply hugging your partner could cause pain or irritation. You might resist moments of intimacy.  

Emotional 

Experiencing depression is a known factor to sexual dysfunction. Having psoriasis makes you more likely to experience depression.

Living with psoriasis can also cause feelings of embarrassment. You may have psoriatic lesions or plaques on parts of your body that are more involved in sexual activities, like the chest, abdomen, and genitals. This has been shown to have a greater effect on self-esteem and the desire to engage in sex. 

It is not uncommon to feel less attractive due to skin lesions. This may cause anxiety when you are in a newer relationship. You may feel like you’d rather avoid intimacy than have to reveal your psoriasis to someone.

Genital Psoriasis 

You might develop genital psoriasis, which can cause more anxiety, pain, or depression. Genital psoriasis can cause itching, pain, painful intercourse, and a worsening of symptoms after sex. The good news is that genital lesions can be improved with targeted treatment.

Most people who experience genital psoriasis have psoriasis on other parts of their body. Rarely does psoriasis affect only the genitals. You may have inverse or plaque psoriasis on the genitals. These can occur in the following locations:

  • The crease between the thigh and genital area
  • Vulva, penis, or scrotum
  • The crease between the buttocks (including the skin around the anus)
  • Pubis (skin above the genitals)
  • Inner and upper thigh

Inverse psoriasis typically occurs in the folds or creases of the body, causing symptoms such as red smooth skin that looks tight. You may also experience pain, severe itching, and splitting of the skin. These symptoms may be made worse by sweat or rubbing against the areas.

Plaque psoriasis causes plaques that look red with a silvery white buildup of dead cells. Typical symptoms include pain, itching, and cracking of the skin. 

If you experience genital psoriasis, it’s important to talk to your doctor so that you can receive the proper treatment.

Genital Psoriasis Facts

  • 43% of adults with genital psoriasis report a decreased frequency of intercourse.
  • 63% of adults with psoriasis will develop genital psoriasis at least once in their lifetime, yet almost half will not discuss these symptoms with their doctor.
  • Genital psoriasis is often underdiagnosed due to a lack of communication with healthcare professionals. This increases the risk of inappropriate self-treatment.

What Triggers the Symptoms?

Everyone’s psoriasis triggers are different, but the most common triggers are:

  • Stress
  • Injury to the skin, like a scratch, sunburn, or bug bite
  • Illness
  • Weather

Some people may also experience flares of symptoms due to allergies, certain foods, alcohol, or other environmental factors.

To help determine your own triggers, you may want to record when your symptoms get worse and note whether any of these other triggers were present at the time. This can help you track your triggers over time.

Living with psoriasis also puts you at higher risk of other diseases that are known to affect sexual function. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and increased body mass index. Maintaining a regular schedule with your doctor and completing yearly checkups can help you stay on top of these other risk factors.

Talking to Your Partner 

If your psoriasis is interfering with your sex life, talking to your partner is key. So is talking to your doctor. Though it might feel embarrassing to bring up, your sex life is a part of your overall health, and your doctor wants to help you be as healthy as possible.

Your doctor can suggest treatment options or tips on how to improve your intimate relationships that you might not have thought of.

Psoriasis around the genital area can look like a sexually transmitted infection (STI). You may need to explain the cause of your symptoms and reassure your partner that it is not an infection.

Feeling ashamed about your psoriasis is normal, but remember that you did not cause this. Psoriasis is not contagious.

Talking to your partner when your psoriasis symptoms make sex uncomfortable may help alleviate some of the pressure you feel for the quality of your sex life. Together you can find workarounds that help you remain intimate without aggravating your symptoms.

Psoriasis and Intimacy Tips 

If you have fears about your psoriasis or how your partner will react to your symptoms, talk about them. Don’t be afraid to express feelings of worry or of feeling less desirable.

Open communication is always good for relationships, and a good partner will listen. Being vulnerable with your partner can help you connect on a deeper level.

Talk openly to your partner about different ways to work around psoriasis, especially if it’s in the genital region and affecting sex. Nonirritating lube can help you remain intimate without affecting your skin. Remember to clean well and apply all medications after sex to avoid irritation.

If you are feeling less desirable because of psoriasis, engage in some self-care to restore confidence. Exercise is a known mood booster. Take a walk, or go to Pilates or yoga.

Find something that makes you feel happy and allows you to get back to feeling like yourself. Sometimes this can be something as simple or seemingly trivial as buying a new outfit or a piece of lingerie. Whatever it is, find something that works for you.

Psoriasis Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

at the doctor's office

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is my partner’s psoriasis contagious? 

Psoriasis is not contagious. It is an immune-modulated disease, meaning it is caused by the immune system. In psoriasis, cells simply turn over too fast, which causes scaly patches. Those patches are not caused by infection.

Is erectile dysfunction a symptom of psoriasis? 

Erectile dysfunction occurs more often in people with psoriasis than in the general population. This is due to several factors—some are physical, and others are emotional. If you experience erectile dysfunction, it’s important to let your doctor know, as it can be a sign of cardiovascular problems.

Females can experience sexual dysfunction as well. While there is no conclusive study indicating the cause of dysfunction in females, it has been noted that psoriasis causes changes to a woman’s desire, arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction.

Can I have sex with psoriasis?

Having sex with psoriasis can be enjoyable. Talk to your doctor about any concerns or risk factors that may be causing limitations to your sex life. A therapist or counselor can also help with depression and self-esteem around psoriasis.

Have open communication with your partner to mitigate any feelings of embarrassment. You can address physical barriers such as a genital lesion that may require extra lube or a slower pace.

Summary

Psoriasis can have both physical and emotional effects that have an impact on sexual intimacy. It increases the risk of depression and can create embarrassment and body image problems. Genital psoriasis and both male and female sexual dysfunction can interfere with a satisfying sex life.

Talking openly with your partner can help prevent or resolve issues. Your healthcare professional can also advise you on measures to help.

A Word From Verywell 

Feeling embarrassed or insecure while living with psoriasis is common, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel that way forever. Talking to your doctor about your concerns when it comes to sex and intimacy with psoriasis can help give you a sense of control.

Though it might feel like a taboo subject, rest assured that your doctor wants you to have the best quality of life. A good quality of life includes a healthy and functional sex life.

 

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12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Molina-Leyva A, Almodovar-Real A, Carrascosa JC, Molina-Leyva I, Naranjo-Sintes R, Jimenez-Moleon JJ. Distribution pattern of psoriasis, anxiety and depression as possible causes of sexual dysfunction in patients with moderate to severe psoriasisAn Bras Dermatol. 2015;90(3):338-345. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20153254

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  7. Yang EJ, Beck KM, Sanchez IM, Koo J, Liao W. The impact of genital psoriasis on quality of life: a systematic reviewPsoriasis (Auckl). 2018;8:41-47. doi:10.2147/PTT.S169389

  8. The National Psoriasis Foundation. Genital psoriasis: Know the signs. Updated May 18, 2021.

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Additional Reading
  • Duarte GV, Calmon H, Radel G, de Fátima Paim de Oliveira M. Psoriasis and sexual dysfunction: links, risks, and management challengesPsoriasis (Auckl). 2018;8:93-99. Published 2018 Dec 10. doi:10.2147/PTT.S159916

  • Molina-Leyva A, Almodovar-Real A, Carrascosa JC, Molina-Leyva I, Naranjo-Sintes R, Jimenez-Moleon JJ. Distribution pattern of psoriasis, anxiety and depression as possible causes of sexual dysfunction in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis. An Bras Dermatol. 2015;90(3):338-345. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20153254