By Ng Wan Ching
TWO years ago, Madam Hasina Sarma, 51, withdrew from her husband of more than 20 years.
The housewife and mother of two became uncomfortable with him and rebuffed his sexual advances.
The reason? Her skin.
She has been suffering from a severe form of psoriasis for more than 20 years.
|"When my skin turns scaly and red, I feel like I become something that is stuck in a shell. I can't go out, I can't face people." - Madam Hasina
Most of the time, her condition is kept under control with medication and creams. But whenever she is stressed, the condition flares up and large patches of her skin turn red, scaly and flaky, including her scalp, which is one of the toughest areas for her to treat.
Feeling embarrassed, she keeps her body covered up and does not leave her home.
Fortunately, that episode two years ago lasted just a couple of months before she became better. But Madam Hasina is not alone.
A recent international study showed that one in five people experienced sexual dysfunction because of psoriasis.
And more women (27.1 per cent) than men (20.8 per cent) suffer from this.
The study showed that a new drug, injected once every three months, can help sufferers. The study showed that of the 22.4 per cent of patients who reported impaired sexual function, only 2.7 per cent reported having the problem after 12 weeks of treatment with the new drug, ustekinumab.
Madam Hasina's skin cleared up without the need for ustekinumab, which costs $4,000 to $5,000 per injection.
She was treated with ultra-violet light and methotrexate, a prescription oral medication. Unfortunately, her skin is starting to flare up again as she is stressed from looking after her mother,who has been hospitalised.
"There is no one to relieve me. So I feel stressed being my mother's only caretaker," she said.
Her husband is understanding and does not mind her condition.
Said Mr Mubarak Hussain, 48, a taxi driver: "We are still very close. But when her skin is like that, she feels shy to take off her clothes even though she knows I don't mind it. She doesn't even want my help to apply the creams on her skin."
Though she covers up her body, he knows when there's a flare-up as he can feel the scaly, lumpy patches on her head.
"I play with her hair and head all the time so I know; I can feel it," he said. "The only bad thing for me is that when it is very bad, she doesn't even want to leave the house."
She used to work as a receptionist, then as a caterer's assistant. But she had to stop work partly because of her condition.
Said Madam Hasina: "It is difficult for me to stand for long because I also have arthritis. On top of my skin problem, I have developed another problem."
People with psoriasis are more prone to developing arthritis.
"When my skin turns scaly and red, I feel like I become something that is stuck in a shell. I can't go out, I can't face people," she said.
Up to 50,000 people here suffer from psoriasis, one of the top 10 skin disorders in Singapore.