Psoriasis is a particularly unpleasant condition. First there are the skin patches. Then there’s the embarrassment and hiding that goes along with them – long-sleeved shirts, jeans in hot weather and turtle necks year-round. And not least of all, there are the associated health risks: an increased likelihood of stroke, heart problems, and cancer, and the possibility of psoriatic arthritis among them. But education can go a long way toward reducing the stigma and health problems of psoriasis, and they can do a lot to make you feel at peace with your condition. Here are a few ways to learn about psoriasis.
1. Learn What Psoriasis Is
Psoriasis is an immune-mediated disease with a large genetic component. That means it results from a malfunctioning of the body’s immune system and, though we don’t know exactly what causes it, it tends to run in families and involves the interaction of many genes. There are five types: guttate, inverse, plaque, pustular and erythrodermic. Plaque, in which scaly patches with a red and white color form on the top layer of the skin, is the most common. Psoriasis can show up anywhere on the body, but the knees and elbows are frequently affected, as are fingernails and toenails. It’s a chronic, lifelong condition, so understanding it early is essential for a happy life. As of yet, there’s no cure.
2. Learn What Psoriasis Isn’t
Above all, psoriasis isn’t contagious. It also doesn’t say anything about you as a person. There’s no connection between psoriasis and Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy), sexually transmitted diseases or any other commonly feared skin-related conditions. Psoriasis can be hard to treat, but it isn’t untreatable. There’s a wide array or medications used to reduce symptoms. Each patient is different, but it may be possible to reduce your difficulties.
3. Learn How to Inform Others
The hardest part about psoriasis is dealing with worries about how others will react. You may get strange looks from time to time, and every once in a while someone may make a rude remark. But most people are open-minded, and a little bit of information can go a long way. It may not be fair, but it’s your job to keep others informed about your psoriasis. Choose the right time and setting to talk about it, when you’re both relaxed and there’s no discomfort between you. Plan ahead and think through what you want to say. And don’t avoid what you know the other person is thinking: Tell them it’s not contagious, tell them you didn’t get it from doing something wrong, tell them it’s no fun but it’s not dangerous either.
4. Learn How to Treat It
Research online. Hit the library. Talk to fellow sufferers. Above all, talk with your doctor and ask any questions you can think of about treatment options. Every case of psoriasis is different, and what works for one patient won’t work for another. Many treatments will help only moderately. But every little bit is a step in the right direction, and you may find something that really does the job. The available treatments include light therapy, topical treatments, oral medications and injections. But be warned, some of these carry significant risks of their own, including skin cancer, lymphoma and liver disease.
5. Learn How to Deal with Associated Problems
There are several major health problems connected to psoriasis: an increased risk of stroke, an increased risk of heart disease (especially for patients in their 40s and 50s), an increased risk of certain types of cancer (which may be more closely associated with treatments than with the disease), an increased risk of depression, and the possibility of psoriatic arthritis. Many concrete steps can be taken to lessen these risks, such as quitting smoking, exercising and establishing a healthier diet. And proper treatment of psoriatic arthritis, which strikes up to 30 percent of psoriasis sufferers, can prevent the most serious joint problems.
Psoriasis is a lifelong condition, so it’s important to develop a plan for dealing with it. That means learning about the disease, associated problems and treatments, and learning how to inform others. With this information, psoriasis can be turned from a stress-inducing disorder into a manageable annoyance.
Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.