When It Comes to Your Skin, Don’t Let Psoriasis Steal Your JoyProactive Health
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
August is Psoriasis Awareness Month, so let’s take a closer look and see what we can do to be proactive about this skin condition that affects about 7.5 million people in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
What is psoriasis?
To give you a basic definition, “[p]soriasis is a chronic, inflammatory, autoimmune skin condition characterized by a wide range of symptoms including scaling, itching, redness, and burning,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.
According to the US National Library of Medicine (NLM), psoriasis is caused by a problem with your immune system. “In a process called cell turnover, skin cells that grow deep in your skin rise to the surface. Normally, this takes a month. In psoriasis, it happens in just days because your cells rise too fast,” the NLM reports. This process causes rough, scaly patches on the skin.
Psoriasis can potentially affect any part of your body, but it typically affects the outside of the elbows, knees or scalp.
How your body is affected may also depend on what type of psoriasis you have. There are multiple types of psoriasis including:
- Plaque Psoriasis. Most common form of the disease. Looks like red, raised patches with a white buildup of dead skin cells (sometimes called plaque). Usually appears on the scalp, knees, elbows and lower back. This condition may cause cracking and bleeding of the skin.
- Guttate [GUH-tate]. Second most common form. Looks like small, dot-like lesions. Usually found in children and young adults and can be triggered by a strep infection (strep throat).
- Inverse. Appears in very red lesions in body folds: behind the knee, under the arm or in the groin. Many people who have this type of psoriasis also have another type of psoriasis.
- Pustular. Appears as white pustules. They look like pimples but are non-infectious. Most likely to occur on hands and feet.
- Erythrodermic [eh-REETH-ro-der-mik]. Very severe form of psoriasis that is usually widespread over the body. May cause severe itching and pain and can even cause the skin to come off in sheets. It is the rarest form.
Furthermore, people who suffer from psoriasis may also experience psoriatic arthritis, which, just like rheumatoid arthritis, may cause joint pain, stiffness and swelling.
“It is estimated that up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis,” according to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF).
The NPF also reports, [t]here is a significant association between psoriatic disease and metabolic syndrome – a cluster of conditions that include heart disease, abdominal obesity and high blood pressure. A national sample of more than 6,500 people found that 40 percent of those with psoriasis had metabolic syndrome, compared with just 23 percent of the general population.”
People with psoriasis may also have an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, depression, Crohn's Disease, cancer and more. It is a disease that stems from inflammation, so it makes sense that there would be a connection to all of these diseases, because chronic inflammation is believed to be a major cause of illness.
What causes psoriasis?
“Scientists believe that at least 10 percent of people inherit one or more of the genes that could eventually lead to psoriasis. However, only 2 percent to 3 percent of the population develops the disease. Researchers believe that for a person to develop psoriasis, that person must have a combination of the genes that cause psoriasis and be exposed to specific external factors known as ‘triggers’,” the NPF says.
What are possible triggers?
- Injury to skin (for example, a sunburn)
- Certain medications
- Infections (as mentioned, strep throat for example)
- Being exposed to severe weather
- Smoking and heavy alcohol consumption
- Vitamin D deficiency
How can we be proactive?
There is no real cure for psoriasis, however, there are many steps we can take to keep it under control and stop those triggers.
- Manage your stress levels. I know this is easier said than done, but this is important for psoriasis and your overall health. Try meditating or find a healthy activity you enjoy, like yoga. My stress-free oasis is golf!
- Quit smoking & watch the booze. Psoriasis is yet another reason to kick the bad habit of smoking. Also watch your alcohol consumption. To see how much drinking is too much drinking, click here.
- Keep it natural. Avoid perfumes and scented soaps, which can irritate the skin. Luckily, there are a lot of natural, nice-smelling soaps and essential oils available. It is also important to keep your skin moisturized.
- Medicate. But do it carefully. There are some over-the-counter steroids and antihistamines you can take that may help with psoriasis. Consult your doctor first, and if you have a severe form of psoriasis your doctor may give you a prescription for medicine. Also talk to your doctor about any other medications you take to see if any of these medications are possible triggers for your psoriasis.
There is also a lot you can do nutritionally to help manage psoriasis, including:
- Get more selenium. This mineral may have anti-inflammatory properties. A study that looked at the protein osteopontin, which is found in patients with psoriasis, found that high selenium levels were associated with low osteopontin levels and possibly better cardiovascular health. Whether it’s a coincidence or truly a clue to psoriasis is unclear, but keeping healthy levels of anti-inflammatory selenium is important. Foods high in selenium include Brazil nuts, yellowfin tuna, halibut, sardines and chicken.
- Try an elimination diet. Consider eliminating certain foods. Maybe spicy foods or dairy. Keep a food journal, and see if you notice any improvement. “Studies have found that some people who have psoriasis may also be sensitive to gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. In these people, avoiding gluten may ease their psoriasis symptoms,” according to the Mayo Clinic. For healthy, gluten-free recipes, click here.
- Supplement. The Mayo Clinic reports that although there are mixed reviews, some studies suggest fish oil supplements may improve symptoms of psoriasis. Fish oil injections may also help. “The latest findings suggest that fish oil delivered by a needle in a vein (intravenously) reduces psoriasis symptoms more quickly than do fish oil supplements taken by mouth,” the Mayo Clinic says.
And remember to eat a diet filled with antioxidant rich, inflammation fighting fruits and vegetables. This will help boost your immunity and ward off infections and inflammation. It is also important to get nutritional testing to determine if you are deficient in any of the essential vitamins and minerals.
When your skin is not looking good, it can really take a toll on your physical and mental health. Skin problems may prevent you from doing the things you enjoy like going to the beach, attending social gatherings and more. And one of the best feelings you can have is loving the skin that you are in. So let’s be proactive about psoriasis.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.