August is Psoriasis Awareness Month! Each August, the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) sponsors Psoriasis Awareness Month, dedicated to raising awareness, educating the public and dispelling myths about the disease. Throughout the month, we’ll be sharing resources for treating and managing psoriatic disease. Each week, we’ll unlock a new challenge to test your knowledge and provide you with everything you need to live a full, vibrant and active life.
Psoriasis is a chronic, noncontagious, genetic autoimmune disease that appears on the skin in red, scaly patches that itch, crack and bleed. It is the most common autoimmune disease in the country, affecting approximately 7.5 million Americans. Genetics and the immune system play a major role in the disease. In people with psoriasis, the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth of skin cells. To develop psoriasis, a person must have a combination of the genes that cause psoriasis and be exposed to external “triggers.” Triggers include stress; injury to the skin, such as a tattoo or a scrape; smoking; and certain infections.
Injured skin and certain drugs can aggravate psoriasis, including certain types of blood pressure medications (like beta-blockers), the anti-malarial medication hydroxychloroquine, and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.). Psoriasis tends to run in families, but it may be skip generations; a grandfather and his grandson may be affected, but the child’s mother never develops the disease. Although psoriasis may be stressful and embarrassing, most outbreaks are relatively harmless. With appropriate treatment, symptoms generally subside within a few months. Psoriasis is a persistent, long-lasting (chronic) disease. There may be times when your psoriasis symptoms get better alternating with times your psoriasis worsens.
The primary goal of treatment is to stop the skin cells from growing so quickly. While there isn’t a cure, psoriasis treatments may offer significant relief. Lifestyle measures, such as using a nonprescription cortisone cream and exposing your skin to small amounts of natural sunlight, also may improve your psoriasis symptoms. If you have severe psoriasis or it’s resistant to other types of treatment, your doctor may prescribe oral or injected drugs. Because of severe side effects, some of these medications are used for only brief periods and may be alternated with other forms of treatment.
If you’re not happy with your treatment, it’s time to consider something else. How much risk you’re willing to take with certain medications is a personal decision. But with more data showing psoriasis is an inflammatory condition that affects the whole body, it makes sense to treat your psoriasis in a way that improves your overall health. And treatment isn’t just for your body. Psoriasis Awareness Month is also a good time to reassess how you’re doing emotionally. Psoriasis can be stressful, and it can cause anxiety and depression. But there are healthy ways to cope with the emotions surrounding psoriasis. Don’t hesitate to seek the help of a counselor or support group if you need to. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about the disease like that it is contagious. This month, we need to put the spotlight on the disease and help educate the public about it.