Psoriasis: More than just a skin problem
Many people think of psoriasis as a cosmetic problem. However, psoriasis is an inflammatory condition and patients with psoriasis have an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Skin lesions can also affect activities of daily life and can contribute to depression. It is important to live a healthy lifestyle if psoriasis is diagnosed. My Dermatologist can help you manage your disease.
Psoriasis is a genetic condition in which inflammatory factors are released into the skin and cause skin cells to hyperproliferate (grow quickly) to form plaques and silvery scale. These lesions can occur anywhere on the body, or can be local to certain areas of the skin. They can also be specific to scalp, nails, or hands and feet. It is important though to realize that psoriasis affects more than just the skin, and should be treated and thought of in this way. In patients with psoriasis, many inflammatory factors are released into the skin. However, this inflammation can affect other parts of our body as well. In patients with psoriasis, there is an increased rate of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, depression, high cholesterol, and obesity. Psoriasis is considered a risk factor for heart disease just like high blood pressure is. In studies where a PET scan is performed of the entire body in patients with psoriasis, inflammation can be seen in the liver, aorta/femoral arteries, skin plaques, and in many patient’s knees and ankles. Because of this, it is important to have regular checkups by your primary care provider. Eating fruits, vegetables, a diet high in fiber and low in fat and cholesterol and following general healthy eating guidelines is important for overall health and decreasing these risk factors of disease. Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight also helps psoriasis.
Skin disease in patients can also be debilitating to daily activities, sports, employment, and relationships. Depression and alcoholism are increased in the psoriasis population. If skin lesions or flakiness are affecting work, activities, relationships or your mood, it is important to seek help in treatment of the disease and contributing factors to improve quality of life.
Psoriatic arthritis can also accompany skin psoriasis. While psoriatic arthritis can happen at any time, age 30-50 is most common with an average of 10 years after onset of skin psoriasis. About 30% of patients with psoriasis will develop some level of psoriatic arthritis. Some signs of psoriatic arthritis are morning stiffness, swollen/tender joints, nail pitting, pain in heel/bottom of foot or other tendons, and fatigue. If these symptoms are experienced, it is important to get them evaluated and to not dismiss them as osteoarthritis of aging as there are treatments available to alleviate these symptoms.
There are many treatments for psoriasis depending on the individual patient and involvement of the disease. These range from topical creams and light therapy, to oral pills and injections that modulate your immune system. Dermatologists may work closely with rheumatologists or primary care doctors to help with other symptoms of the disease in addition to the skin to create the best outcome for the individual patient. If you have concerns about psoriasis you would like to discuss, contact My Dermatologist so we can help you manage the disease and become the best you!
Sources: National Psoriasis Foundation, Bolognia