Monkeypox worsens stigma of skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis

A cashier with psoriasis received daily complaints from customers at work. A passenger suffering from eczema was questioned by airline staff after getting off the plane. A commuter with small, benign tumors on his body was unceremoniously filmed and scrutinized on social media.

They were all isolated because people mistakenly assumed they had monkeypox.

People with chronic skin conditions say they have become accustomed to being stared at and questioned about their appearance, but the harassment and stigma have become worse during monkeypox outbreaks around the world.

As a result, some people with skin differences say they have started wearing sweatshirts and gloves, or stopped going outside often, even in hot weather.

This summer, 21-year-old Jacqueline Nguyen, who has eczema, boarded a Spirit Airlines plane in Los Angeles, but shortly before takeoff, Nguyen was asked to leave the plane and questioned about her skin.

After Nguyen explained that it was eczema, the airline asked for proof. It was only after making a bottle of eczema cream that Nguyen was allowed back on the plane. Nguyen called the experience “embarrassing” and “nightmare” and posted video on his tiktok about the incident. Spirit Airlines did not respond to requests for comment.

“I just existed in the skin that I have, what I wear every day and I’m treated like a problem,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen now partes her hair differently to try to cover up eczema on her head and face, and wears long sleeves when leaving the house, or avoids going outside altogether during flare-ups.

an estimated 84 million According to the American Academy of Dermatology, people live with some type of skin condition. Eczema, an inflammatory skin condition that can cause itchy patches of red, scaly and sometimes itchy skin, affects approx. 30 million people in the United States of America. Psoriasis, an autoimmune disease, affects about 3 percent of the US adult population and may form silvery and scaly red spots With well-defined edges, especially on the elbows, knees and scalp.

In contrast, monkeypox presents as pus- or fluid-filled bumps that are often painful, said Esther Freeman, MD, a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Dermatology’s ad hoc monkeypox task force.

Psychologists say the pandemic has raised medical concern in general, which may explain the additional screening of people with skin conditions. A recent national survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center revealed about 1 in 5 Americans Worried about getting monkeypox, but understood little about it.

Mark Scholar, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, said health phobias can increase prejudices toward people who look different. Their research also found that a higher perceived risk of infection is related to more prejudiced attitude toward immigrants, people who are obese and elderly. They also found that when people felt more vulnerable to illness, they reported having less exposure. people with disabilities,

“Over the past three years, the disease has been as much on people’s minds as it has been in the news so much,” Scholar said. “When people are more concerned about illness, they express more prejudice toward people with physical disabilities.”

Kate Riggle, 41, has psoriasis, and after the monkeypox outbreak, she began to receive daily complaints from clients at her work. She works at a deli in her hometown of Hibbing, Minn., where she helps cook and works as a cashier.

“I’ve complained to people that they don’t want me to touch their money,” she said. “Even though my psoriasis is on my elbows.”

Lily Simon, 33, of Brooklyn, said she understands people’s uncertainty when they see her bumps caused by neurofibromatosis 1, a genetic condition that causes benign tumors to grow in nerve endings and spread throughout the body. Forms small bumps. But, she said, it is not Justifying rude behavior or misbehavior.

This summer, Simon was inadvertently filmed by a stranger while on his way to work. The video was then posted on TikTok with a monkey emoji and a question mark. The video went viral, with several comments accusing Simon of having and spreading monkeypox.

When Simon saw the post a few days later, she was horrified. “My heart kind of stopped,” she said. “All those old feelings came to the fore. Old feelings of feeling like I have to cover up. ,

simon quickly posted a reaction video To raise awareness of her condition, explaining that she has been bullied on her skin in the past and has sought medical attention to cope.

It is not clear whether people with skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema are at higher risk of getting monkeypox when exposed to it. But the chances of catching monkeypox from regular activities remain low, said Freeman, a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Freeman is advising her patients to follow the same precautions as the general population: to get vaccinated if they are in a high-risk group, and to avoid contact with anyone who has monkeypox.

What to know about monkeypox symptoms, treatment, and prevention?

Freeman stressed that anyone in a high-risk group for monkeypox who had a Must achieve a condition compromising the skin barrier Genios Vaccine, which was approved by the FDA specifically for monkeypox. The older generation of smallpox vaccine, ACAM2000, carries a risk of serious side effects for people with certain skin conditions.

Erika Dommash, a dermatologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said a person with eczema who contracts monkeypox may be at risk for more serious illness because the disease spreads more easily from one area of ​​their body to another. may spread.

If any, with or without a chronic skin condition, Having noticed something unusual on their skin, he encouraged them to consult a dermatologist.

For those who are probing and irritating people with skin conditions? Leave the diagnosis to a professional, she said.

“Many other skin conditions exist in the world, and we should not assume that everyone who looks different has monkeypox,” Domash said.

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