August is Psoriasis Awareness Month, so I feel this is a good time to shed some light on a disease that affects so many. An estimated 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis, which is the most common autoimmune disease in the country. Therefore, this is the perfect opportunity to educate the public about the disease and its impact.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that develops on the skin. It appears as raised, red patches covered with dead skin cells. The buildup of the skin cells is called scaling. Typical skin cell tissues shed in about one month, but a person who has psoriasis may have buildup on their skin due to the cells not being able to shed appropriately. These scales usually appear on joints, like elbows and knees. However, they could appear anywhere, particularly on the hands, feet, neck, scalp, and even the face.
Psoriasis is commonly associated with other health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, psoriatic arthritis, anxiety, and depression.
Types of Psoriasis
There are five different types of psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis, which is the most commonly seen form, causes red, inflamed patches all over the skin. Guttate psoriasis, which primarily affects children, causes small pink spots over the torso, arms, and legs. Typically, these spots are not raised or thick like plaque psoriasis. Another form, pustular psoriasis, is most common with adults, and causes white, pus-filled blisters and broad areas of red, inflamed skin. Inverse psoriasis causes bright, shiny, red patches on the skin, and is primarily found in folds of skin (e.g., armpits). Lastly, erythrodermic psoriasis is a very severe and very rare form of psoriasis. Typically, this form covers most of the body at once, and it is not uncommon for a person to run a fever or become sick. If an individual has this form of psoriasis, he or she should see a doctor immediately as it can be life-threatening.
Psoriasis is not contagious, and the cause is partially due to the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy skin cells. Treatments include topical creams and ointments, such as retinoids, anthralin, vitamin D analogues (a form of synthetic vitamin D that you rub on your skin), and salicylic acid. There are triggers for psoriasis, such as stress and heavy alcohol consumption. Some medications, like lithium, antimalarial medications, and high-blood pressure medications, can also cause flare-ups for individuals with psoriasis, so it is important to talk with a doctor with any of these concerns.
While this autoimmune disease is common among Americans, many people do not understand the impact it can have on individuals who suffer from it. We can bring awareness during Psoriasis Awareness Month and year-round by sharing stories with others and being understanding and considerate to those who suffer from the disease.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chelsea Woods has a Master’s degree in special education and is an Educational Diagnostician. Her passion is children, particularly children with special needs. Chelsea has been married to her husband Dylan for 6 years, and they have two girls, Kamdyn, five, and Emersyn, one. She enjoys time with her church family, working in their garden, and taking vacations and making memories as a family.