As we discussed psoriasis vulgaris in lecture, the dermatologist was quick to point out that we should, in good conscience, not name the condition as such to a patient. “Call it ‘plaque-like psoriasis.’ The second part of the name ‘vulgaris’ can frighten patients and instil stigma about their condition.
He was right. It was hard to separate the term from the vivid imagination of the mind. Even though I had already seen pictures of the condition, the word association was stuck. How often had we described offensive material or things in poor taste as vulgar?
However, it was not always like that. Vulgaris is from the Latin word vulgus, meaning “the common people.” In middle English, it had many ordinary uses. But eventually, it was used by the aristocracy to describe the common people in a negative light: a lack of sophistication or good taste, an unrefined understanding, an offensive, coarse, or rude reference.
And thus, it continues to exist in our vocabulary, as a twisted version of the original. But these original medical terms remain: Psoriasis vulgaris. Acne vulgaris. Pemphigus vulgaris. All use vulgaris as a modifier, to reflect the fact that the condition they describe is the “common” form of the disease. Nothing more.
One of the doctors I trained under used to offer me this clinical pearl: if a male patient comes to see you and gives you an extremely firm handshake, there is a strong likelihood he has come in due to concerns about his penis. I used to think how does that work? But then I started to pay attention and it really happens!
You are their one hope and they are putting all of their faith and trust in you to fix their problem. They are pre-emptively sealing the deal.
Oh, you have no idea. I try not to let things get to me, but every now and then they do. I get all nervous and anxious, and I just feel sick with worry. When the demographics and prevalence stats really sink in though, you tend to stop worrying, and especially relieved when it is an extremely rare condition.
However, this week is all about dermatology and that, as the lecturers say, is one area where we have all experienced some kind of issue in our life. So far, there have been a few more “I wonder…” moments in the class than usual.
A normal scalp has 100,000 hair follicles. On average, a single strand of hair grows 0.35mm in length per day. So, in a single day, you are growing around 35m of hair a day! Your scalp is just this one, big, hair growing factory! To put it in perspective, you will grow over 540 miles of hair in your lifetime.