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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.

Dr Capoore explains his research
Dermatologists at Kent and Canterbury Hospital asked 64 patients with chronic skin disorders such as eczema, prurigo and psoriasis to give a medical history of their condition to a psychiatrist.

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.

[ image: Psoriasis: Cause unknown]
Psoriasis: Cause unknown
Dr Harbans Capoore, the psychiatrist who interviewed the patients, said: "The patients were able, I suppose, to remember the events that they had recalled and to readjust to them somehow.

"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."

Hereditary condition

Psoriasis is a chronic scaling disease of the skin.

[ image: Dr Capoore: 'the changes were remarkable']
Dr Capoore: 'the changes were remarkable'
It may range from just a few spots anywhere on the body to covering large areas. The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown.

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.

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