August is Psoriasis Awareness Month and we’re helping raise awareness of this common skin condition.
Psoriasis is a common skin condition affecting around 2% of people in the UK – but it’s more than just skin deep. While many sufferers experience very mild psoriasis which is merely an irritation, some have severe symptoms which affect their quality of life. This Psoriasis Awareness Month, take the opportunity to learn more about this condition and what you can do to help yourself or someone else who has it.
Psoriasis can be a very visible condition and people who have it sometimes struggle with low self-esteem and mental health issues as a result. That’s why, whether you have psoriasis, know someone who does or have never heard of it before, it’s important to know the facts.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a skin condition which causes patches of red, flaky skin crusted with silvery-looking scales. These patches can often be itchy and sore and can appear anywhere on the body, most commonly on the elbows, knees, lower back and scalp1.
The patches form via a build-up of cells because people with psoriasis produce too many skin cells too quickly. Skin cells are usually replaced every three to four weeks but in people with psoriasis new cells are made every three to seven days1
What causes psoriasis?
No one fully understands exactly why people with psoriasis produce too many skin cells, but it is linked to a problem with the immune system. It can run in families and some people’s symptoms are triggered by an injury or infection or by using certain medicines1.
How is psoriasis diagnosed?
A GP can usually diagnose psoriasis simply from looking at your skin but sometimes you will need a biopsy in order to rule out other skin disorders. If your condition is severe you may be referred to a dermatologist. If your doctor thinks you may have psoriatic arthritis, which is a complication of psoriasis, you may be referred to a rheumatologist.
How is psoriasis treated?
There’s no cure for psoriasis but plenty of treatments can soothe and improve the symptoms. The first stage of treatment for mild to moderate cases is usually corticosteroid ointment or cream containing vitamin D1. In more severe cases you may have phototherapy, which involves exposing your skin to certain types of ultraviolet light. If even this is ineffective, you may be prescribed oral or injected medicine which works throughout the body1.
Some people with severe psoriasis experience low self-esteem, particularly if the patches of affected skin are on the scalp or face. In many cases, the emotional side of psoriasis can be debilitating. That’s why awareness of this condition is so important in reducing the insensitive comments that many people with psoriasis have to endure1.
Of the 1.8 million people in the UK who have psoriasis, one in three experiences depression and anxiety, one in five report stigma and one in ten contemplate suicide. What’s more, some treatments for severe psoriasis can have an adverse effect on your mental health2.
It’s also relatively common for people with psoriasis to experience psoriatic arthritis, which causes swelling, pain and tenderness in the joints. This is not always linked to how mild or severe your psoriasis is. It is treated using ‘disease modifying’ treatments, and you will be referred to a rheumatologist for this1.
Living with psoriasis
If you have psoriasis, it’s important to talk to your doctor about all the treatment options available. A dermatology consultation can be a useful first course of action to determine the severity of your condition and lay out which treatments are on the table. There are many ways to approach treating this condition, and it may take time to find a treatment strategy which works for you. If you also struggle with the psychological side of psoriasis, it’s important that your doctor refers you to someone properly qualified to support you2.
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