A visible skin condition can have psychological repercussions in self-esteem and identity that last well beyond the period of most acute physical suffering, say researchers working with acne patients to write a questionnaire considering the impact on their quality of life.
“People don’t realize how acne can affect people in the long term because they may not have developed socially after years of avoiding social situations during severe acne flare ups,” says Lisa Plant (MA 2012), a doctoral candidate in applied social psychology.
She and her supervisor, professor Greg Chung-Yan, received Mitacs funding to work with dermatologist Jerry Tan and the Windsor Research Clinic. In addition to the questionnaire, they are developing an acne patient decision aid designed to improve patients’ knowledge of their condition, as well as educate patients so they can make informed choices in their treatment.
“There’s a real gap when it comes to treating the physical components of a visible disease, along with the psychosocial components,” says Plant. “The simple fact that it is visible, means people can see it and potentially treat you differently, these serious repercussions can affect your quality of life.”
The questionnaire focuses on any quality of life changes that happen during a clinical drug trial. When acne patients test a new treatment, the doctor assesses the physical symptoms and how they are, or are not, improving. The survey aims to assess any improvement to patients’ quality of life.
Future patients will be able to use the results of the survey to weigh the pros and cons of pursuing a line of treatment. Plant says the findings will also help dermatologists understand how a treatment affects the psychological and social aspects of a patient’s life with acne.
“This allows the patient to be more informed in the discussion,” says Plant. “Patients can find out what kind of acne they have, what treatment options are available, as well as the pros and cons of different treatments—all that before they even meet with the dermatologist.”
Plant’s Mitacs internship will continue to February 2016.