29 October is recognized as World Psoriasis Day to create awareness about psoriasis and garner support for those living with the condition. Psoriasis is a skin condition caused by an overactive immune system that results in abnormally rapid skin cell production, causing these cells to pile up on the skin’s surface and leading to course, red, scaly areas (skin plaques) that are itchy and uncomfortable. It is a noncontagious disease that has become fairly common among people of all ages, that include famous people like Britney Spears, Clint Brink and Kim Kardashian.
Some patients only have to live with itchiness and discomfort during flare-ups, but some develop more serious secondary conditions, including psoriatic arthritis, cardiovascular complications, or diabetes mellitus. According to Dr Tarryn Jacobs, Specialist Dermatologist, approximately 30% of people with psoriasis may develop psoriatic arthritis, a form of arthritis that results in painful, stiff, and swollen joints.
“It’s more than just a skin condition and a nuisance. The inflammation caused by psoriasis can impact other organs in the body,” says Dr Jacobs.
She explains that it is imperative that psoriasis is detected early and treated accordingly.
Notably, psoriasis is a chronic condition, which means that flare-ups will recur, and while there are various treatments available to manage the symptoms, there is currently no cure.
Some patients may experience long remissions with certain treatments, while other treatments could essentially keep the psoriasis under control. Treatments range from topical treatments for skin plaques to phototherapy or light therapy, which are typically prescribed by a dermatologist.
“There are also tablet options, or systemic treatments which work throughout the body, often to suppress the immune system. Biologics have been another major advance in the treatment of psoriasis, giving us more potent treatments that are safe. This is a viable option for those with moderate to severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis who have not responded to other treatments,” says Dr Jacobs.
Benefits of early detection and treatment
The landscape for psoriasis is rapidly changing in terms of understanding the disease, as well as new therapeutics.
These comorbidities include celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, diabetes, fatty liver disease, psoriatic arthritis. These can greatly impact patients' quality of life and mobility.
Living with psoriasis
As psoriasis is a chronic systemic disease, patients need to continuously manage it in their everyday lives. It is important that patients follow the instructions of their doctor or dermatologist and take their medications as prescribed to help alleviate the symptoms and inhibit risk factors.
Apart from following your healthcare provider’s instructions, practising self-care, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important. Patients are also encouraged to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to boost their immune systems, and to stop smoking and drinking alcohol as these substances can aggravate the disease.
Patients may also experience mental health issues due to stigmatization and low self-esteem, and it’s important to be in constant communication with your healthcare provider to address any concerns.
“Psoriasis is a multisystem condition that requires a multisystem approach, and it can have a large impact on your quality of life if not addressed appropriately,” concludes Dr Jacobs.