By Penelope A. Domogo, MD
Last week, we talked about lupus and autoimmune diseases. Like lupus, psoriasis is also an autoimmune disease but affecting mostly the skin. Most of those affected are young adults and white. Research also shows that is becoming more common. Sounds familiar?
It is not infectious or contagious so touching a psoriatic skin will not transfer the condition to you. In autoimmune diseases, the problem is that the immune system attacks even healthy normal cells in the body. The immune system, when it works normally, gobbles up only damaged cells, abnormal cells and foreign bodies like covid to prevent infection and promote healing. Normally, it can tell the difference between our own healthy cells and outsider cells. In psoriasis, however, the white blood cells mistakenly attack the skin cells causing frenzy in the skin cell production.
Normally also, the skin cells grow deep in the skin and slowly rise to the surface then slough off by themselves or with the help of your “igod” or loofa. The typical life cycle of a skin cell is one month. In psoriasis, the skin cells multiply 10 times faster than normal, in a few days, so there’s no time for the older cells to fall off. This rapid overproduction of skin cells causes build-up manifesting as bumpy red patches covered with silvery scales in the skin. These can appear anywhere but usually in the scalp, elbows, knees, face, neck and lower back, making it look like one has severe dandruff. These can be itchy and painful. There may also be discoloration and pitting of the nails. Some patients develop psoriatic arthritis, causing pain and swelling in the joints. So symptoms vary from one patient to another. Although not usually life-threatening, severe arthritis can be debilitating and there’s the increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The biggest concern in psoriasis perhaps is the unsightly patches of skin which causes self-consciousness and may cause depression.
Psoriasis is a chronic disease and, usually, patients experience cycles of wellness and flare-ups. Sometimes symptoms will subside or even disappear completely for weeks or months or years, this is called “remission” and then flare up because of “triggers”. Sometimes, though, it will completely heal. These triggers are not the same for everyone and may also change with time in the same patient. What researchers have found out as common triggers are: (healthline.com/health/psoriasis)
1. High stress
2. Heavy alcohol drinking
3. Injury- accidents, cuts, scrapes, injections, vaccines, sunburn
4. Medications like lithium, antimalarial drugs and some medicines for high blood pressure.
5. Infection like a strep sore throat.
Like any other modern disease, the common treatment for psoriasis is to relieve the symptoms- topical creams and ointments. Severe cases may be treated with oral or injectable medications but these have severe side effects so are used cautiously and for short periods.
Taking care of these three areas below will reduce flare-ups and ease symptoms:
1. Diet – eat more of whole grains and plants and Omega-3 rich foods like soybeans, chia seeds and sardines. Avoid or limits foods that cause inflammation like red meat, dairy products, refined sugar and processed foods.
2. Stress – Reduce and manage your stress with physical activity, breathing, journaling, yoga, meditation.
3. Mental Health – talk with your family and friends about your condition as these are your immediate support group so that they will also support you in your lifestyle change. Find other support groups.
Living with psoriasis may be challenging but avoiding the cause and triggers, one can live a healthy fulfilling life. This is good news as it gives hope. The other good news is that the above- mentioned measures will also prevent psoriasis and the myriad of diseases caused by modern diet and lifestyle ***
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10