Do you or a loved one suffer from psoriasis? If not, you may not realize how common and challenging a condition it can be. In fact, psoriasis affects close to 7.5 million Americans. Along with the well-known red patches of skin, psoriasis can cause embarrassment, low self-esteem, isolation and depression — even for those in the public eye, like pop icon Cyndi Lauper.
Lauper joined the National Psoriasis Foundation to launch the “I’m PsO ready” campaign to bring national attention to psoriasis, explaining that she has struggled for years with the disease that has made her want to hide and leaves her feeling frustrated and hopeless.
“Psoriasis can come from seemingly nowhere, causing its sufferers to feel powerless over the disease,” says Fatemeh Lashgari, a registered nurse in the Sharp Rees-Stealy dermatology department. “People can be afraid to touch psoriasis sufferers or even get near them because they don’t know what it is. If left untreated, it can be a socially isolating disease due to fear and a lack of understanding.”
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that results in red, scaly patches on the skin. Although there are five types of psoriasis, the most common is plaque psoriasis. Raised, scaly patches appear on the elbows, knees or scalp — though it can develop anywhere, even on the eyelids and genital area. Sufferers often complain of itchiness, burning and pain.
The disease affects men and women equally, usually developing between the ages of 15 and 35. It is not contagious or infectious, but its appearance can cause discomfort, confusion and concern. Those with psoriasis are also at risk for developing other conditions, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and Crohn’s disease.
While scientists don’t fully understand its cause, they believe that genetics play a key role in the disease’s development. In order to develop psoriasis, a patient must inherit one or more of the genes that could cause psoriasis, and must be exposed to environmental factors that might trigger its onset. These “triggers” include stress, injury to your skin, certain medications and infections like strep throat. Some believe that diet, the weather and allergies can also cause flare-ups.
PsO ready for treatment?
Treatments for psoriasis range from topical creams and ointments — which might include corticosteroids, synthetic forms of vitamin D, retinoids and salicylic acids — to light therapy using natural sunlight or artificial ultraviolet light, and oral or injected medication, depending on the severity of the disease.
Lashgari says that the light and laser treatments truly make a difference in her patients’ lives.
“We use high-intensity lasers and light therapy to slow the growth of skin cells, reduce inflammation, ease symptoms and improve the appearance of the skin,” she says.
However, Lashgari warns that what works for one case of psoriasis might not work on another, and treatments that once worked to relieve symptoms may become ineffective over time.
“It’s important that sufferers stay as healthy as possible — exercise, eat a balanced diet and don’t smoke,” says Lashgari. “The less stress on the body, the better chance it has to heal or prevent psoriasis flare-ups.”
If you think you may be suffering from psoriasis or if current treatments for your disease are ineffective or cause uncomfortable side effects, talk with your doctor about your options.
You don’t have to suffer in silence. Join Lauper in saying you, too, are “PsO ready” to deal with your psoriasis.