For 8 million Americans, Psoriasis is a chronic disease that must be endured daily. Psoriasis is a condition where skin cells grow at an abnormally fast rate, often causing red and silver lesions in the skin which can be itchy, bumpy and painful. To help create awareness and understanding, here are 7 things you need to know about psoriasis:
- There are 5 different types of psoriasis, a disease which comes in many shapes and forms. The most common is type is Plaque Psoriasis, a condition which can lead to a white silvery buildup over red and irritated skin. In addition to Plaque Psoriasis, there is: Guttate Psoriasis, which manifests with small dot-like lesions; Inverse Psoriasis, which usually appears in skin and body folds; and Pulstar Psoriasis, which appears in white pustules on the skin. The most severe and rare form of the disease is Erythrodermic Psoriasis, a condition which covers most of the body in redness and can cause skin to flake off in sheets. Every type of psoriasis can manifest in mild, moderate or and severe forms, mainly calculated by what percent of the person’s body is covered by psoriasis symptoms.
- Psoriasis can be extremely painful and itchy. For those with more moderate and severe psoriasis, it can cover more than 10% of the body. For some with psoriasis, it can be hard to move in certain ways due to patches of irritated skin. Melissa, a person living with psoriasis, says that “When untreated, psoriasis covers more than 80 percent of my body, so my symptoms are very severe. I’ve had many sleepless nights due to the physical pain. Sometimes my skin feels like it is burning, and other times, it’s unbearably itchy.”
- Like most chronic diseases, psoriasis doesn’t have to stop you from doing the things you love. Fortunately for Melissa, it never stopped her from doing what she loves. She says “I’m also a former ballerina, and in ballet, my psoriasis was no secret. But ballet is also where I found my strength—it made me feel present and capable. Dance helped teach me that there was so much my body could do; it wasn’t just diseased and sick.” Many others feel the same as well. There are numerous celebrities and famously successful people who have never let psoriasis stop them, including Cyndi Lauper, Phil Mickelson, and Art Garfunkel.
- Often, people living with psoriasis will also develop psoriatic arthritis (PsA), another immune disease disorder. PsA, an inflammatory disease of the joints, is one of four types of arthritis. If not treated in the early stages, PsA can be detrimental to joint health as joint damage is irreversible. Symptoms of PsA include swelling and tenderness in joints and tendons, reduced range of motion, changes and lifting in fingernail beds, and redness and pain in the eyes.
- Psoriasis is not contagious. Understanding this is extremely important toward educating people and stopping biases or disease discrimination. Psoriasis is an immune system disease. It is not viral or bacterial, meaning it’s not contagious. Men and women develop it at equal rates, and it can be associated with other types of health conditions, such as diabetes. Multiple environmental factors contribute to psoriasis flare-ups such as stress, cold and dry weather, or injury and trauma to the skin.
- Genetics can play a big part in psoriasis, and a third of people diagnosed with psoriasis also have a family member with the disease. A famous example of this is the mother and daughter duo, Kim Kardashian West and Kris Jenner, both of whom struggle with psoriasis. Having a family history of the disease can increase a person’s risk. There is still much more research needed to fully understand the genetic aspects of psoriasis and how treatment may one day slow or prevent the disease from being passed through generations.
- Generally, psoriasis treatment is intended to reduce inflammation and help clear the skin. The three primary treatment methods are topical treatments, light therapy, and systemic medications. Topical treatments include topical corticosteroids, vitamin D analogues, topical retinoids, and moisturizers. Light therapy includes managed sun exposure and UVB phototherapy, where a patient is exposed to UVB light to help reverse mild to moderate psoriasis symptoms. Systemic medications are drugs that work throughout the body, including oral and injected medications.
Fostering awareness of psoriasis, and every chronic disease, is important because it helps stop stereotyping and the spread of false or even harmful information. Psoriasis is a chronic disease, and it is certainly a challenge for everyone living with the difficulties of the disease. But with proper treatment, psoriasis should not stop you or your loved ones from doing what you love.