Friday, November 6, 1998 Published at 12:44 GMT
Psychiatry 'can cure skin disorders'
Eczema: Sufferers responded after seeing psychiatrist
Skin disorders can be improved by using psychiatric techniques, researchers have claimed.
The patients, whose conditions had proved resistant to traditional dermatological treatment, were encouraged to pinpoint a traumatic event or psychiatric disorder in their life that might have occurred at the time of onset of the skin condition.
Researchers found that traumatic experience influenced nearly two-thirds of patients, and that this emotional state influenced the progress of the skin condition and its resistance to treatment.
Following the one-hour consultation with a psychiatrist, 44 of the patients showed improvement in their skin condition - an improvement that traditional dermatological treatments had failed to engender.
Later, 12 of the patients recovered completely from their disorder.
"The only advice I gave them was strictly dermatological - such as don't scratch so much!
"It was quite remarkable to see the changes. I was as surprised and pleased as my dermatologist colleagues."
Dr Christopher Rowland Payne, the consultant dermatologist who worked on the study, said while the public often linked skin disorder with psychological problems, the medical profession had been more sceptical.
"Patients attend a dermatology clinic because they perceive they have a cutaneous problem," he said.
"But if, for a proportion of these patients, there is a psychological element in the origin of their chronic skin disorder then it behoves the dermatologist to incorporate a psychological aspect into their treatment. Dermatological treatment should be holistic."
Psoriasis is a chronic scaling disease of the skin.
In mild forms of eczema the skin is dry, hot and itchy, while in more severe forms the skin can become broken, raw and bleeding.
Atopic eczema is thought to be a hereditary condition that is suffered by people who are also susceptible to hayfever and asthma.
Prurigo is an itching in the skin without any obvious physical cause.