Updated: Aug 27, 2019
This is the story of Sunaina who was diagnosed with psoriasis when she was 18. She had a small patch of red rashes on her cheek and thick, itchy plaque on her scalp when her parents had initially taken her to the dermatologist. The patches were first noticed when she was 16 but were not considered serious enough and were left untreated. Those had become thicker with time and bled whenever she scratched them.
In those initial days, Sunaina suffered sleepless nights due to pain. The girl’s classmates often thought psoriasis was contagious and refused to touch or share food with her. Consequently, Sunaina had a tough time making her friends understand that the disease can't spread from one person to another. Now, she is 23 and on a biologic and that is helping her.
Like Sunaina, there are thousands of patients fighting psoriasis alongside psychological distress. So this psoriasis awareness month, let’s discuss the disease and debunk some of the common myths related to it.
The History of Psoriasis
The first accurate medical discussion about psoriasis dates back to 1801 but the disease itself is older. The name ‘psoriasis’ is borrowed from the Greek word ‘psora’ meaning an itchy or scaly condition. At a basic level, psoriasis is a condition in which skin cells build up and form scales and itchy, dry patches that are sometimes painful. There is no cure for psoriasis yet, but its symptoms can be managed.
According to the International Federation of Psoriasis Associations, about 125 million people in the world have some form of psoriasis. In India, with a prevalence of 0.44-2.8 per cent, it is often mistaken to be a contagious disease.
Psoriasis, a chronic condition that strikes both females and males at any time from childhood (although rare) to old age, ranges from mild to severe. In about a third of cases, psoriasis runs in families. In general, the earlier psoriasis starts, the more likely it is to spread to large areas of skin and result in serious consequences.
Psoriasis comes in many forms and the most common is the plaque type. In this one, plaques develop symmetrically on both sides of the body, commonly on the knees, elbows, and scalp, especially at the hairline. Other common locations also include the genitals, ear canals, between the buttocks, and belly button. Common signs and symptoms include:
· Red or salmon-pink patches of skin covered with thick, silvery scales
· Small scaling spots (usually seen in children)
· Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
· Itching, burning, or soreness
· Pitted, ridged, or thickened nails
· Swollen, stiff, or painful joints
How to Get Rid of Psoriasis Symptoms
People with mild psoriasis may get relief from self-treatment with little more than a skin moisturizer, an antidandruff shampoo, and some sunlight. But most patients need medically supervised therapy. Although no treatment will cure psoriasis, the following can control the disease:
§ Topical therapy
§ Systemic therapy
· Psoriasis only affects adults
While it is common in adults, it can occur in all age groups.
· Psoriasis is contagious
You cannot catch psoriasis from someone. It is a genetic condition triggered when there is a glitch in your immune system.
· People with psoriasis should stay out of the sun
Sun exposure can slow the growth of your affected cells.
· Psoriasis and eczema are the same thing
Eczema is another skin condition that causes itchy and inflamed rashes but it is not the same as psoriasis.
If you have psoriasis, you are at a greater risk of developing certain diseases like:
· Psoriatic arthritis
· Certain eye disorders
· Type 2 diabetes
· High blood pressure
· Cardiovascular disease
· Other autoimmune diseases like sclerosis, celiac disease, and sclerosis
· Parkinson's disease
The message to those who have psoriasis but haven’t done anything about it is: Be proactive about treating your condition. You don’t want a close one to experience what Sunaina did. And if you are someone who is suffering from psoriasis, consult your doctor if the condition:
v Causes you pain or discomfort
v Makes it difficult to perform routine tasks
v Causes you concern about the appearance of your skin