Psoriasis Awareness Month:7 Vital Facts to Know About the Disease

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month, making it a good time to learn the facts about the autoimmune inflammatory disease that affects about 2 percent of the population.

Psoriasis, a condition in which skin cells build up and form scales and itchy, dry patches, is a misunderstood disease. Patients often keep it under wraps for fear of stigma—many wear long sleeves, high collars, and long pants to hide their skin lesions.

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month, making it a good time to learn the facts about the autoimmune inflammatory disease that affects about 2 percent of the population.

The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) reports that as many as 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis, a chronic disease that develops when the immune system kicks into overdrive. It causes skin cells that protect the body from infection and disease to grow quickly. The long lasting disease begins inside your immune system but manifests as skin redness and irritation. It can occur in all age groups, but it primarily affects adults.

Here are seven things you need to know about the autoimmune disease:

1. Psoriasis is not infectious.

Psoriasis is a genetic disease and is not an infection, bacteria or virus. It does not transfer through contact. According to the CDC, about 40 percent of psoriatic patients have a family history. It can also be triggered by strep throat.

2. There are many types of psoriasis.

There are several types of psoriasis ranging from mild (a few spots) to severe (full body coverage). The four most common types include:

  • Chronic plaque psoriasis which spreads over the entire body. It is easily recognized as pink or red areas with silvery red scales.
  • Palmoplanter psoriasis, also a chronic recurring condition that affects the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
  • Guttate psoriasis can be recognized as small, salmon-pink (or red) drops. Also described as raindrops on a cotton shirt, this type of psoriasis appears suddenly on the skin two to three weeks after a streptococcal infection or tonsillitis.
  • Erythdermic/pustular psoriasis is a serious type of psoriasis where plaques with small pustules, become fiery red and spreads over the entire body.

3. Not everyone with psoriasis develops psoriasis arthritis.

According to studies, up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriasis arthritis. Typically people between ages 30 and 50 and an average of 10 years after a psoriasis diagnosis develop symptoms that include pain, stiffness and swelling in and around the joints.

4. It is a psychodermatological disorder.

It is a well-known fact that your emotional health affects your physical health. But did you know that your emotions and stress can also affect your skin?

Although psoriasis and other skin disease are physiological in nature, it could worsen during times of stress. It not only affects the progression of the disease but how you respond to medication.

5. Psoriasis is associated with depression and anxiety.

Psoriasis doesn’t just affect the skin. This chronic illness could have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. The stigma attached to this chronic illness may lead to emotional distress in the form of anxiety and depression, which may further lead to severe psoriatic flare.

A 2015 study presented at the American Academy of Dermatology’s Summer Academy Meeting in New York indicated that psoriasis patients might have an increased risk of depression. According to the study, about 16.5 percent of 12,382 adult patients met the criteria for major depression.

6. Inform your doctor if you are planning to conceive.

Psoriasis doesn’t affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant nor is it linked to any miscarriage or birth defects in the child. In fact, up to 60 percent of women find their psoriasis symptoms actually improve during pregnancy. Thanks to the rise in the progesterone that dampens the overactive immune response that triggers psoriasis symptoms. However post-delivery, the symptoms may flare up.

The biggest concern during pregnancy is, however, the medicines used to treat psoriasis. Although some drugs are safe, others may lead to birth defects or miscarriages. Hence, it is important to let your OB-GYN and dermatologist know as soon as you decide to get pregnant.

7.    Psoriasis can affect more than your skin.

Psoriasis runs more than skin deep. According to a study published in October 2013 in theJAMA Dermatology Journal, people with psoriasis are at a higher risk of diabetes, ulcer, psoriatic arthritis, heart disease, and obesity.

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