August is recognised as Psoriasis awareness month and this inflammatory systemic disease affects 4.3% of the UAE population, with almost 8,000 more are affected by it every year. While it usually strikes between the ages of 15 and 25, psoriasis can appear at any age.
Contrary to common belief, psoriasis is not just a skin disease and although the process is not fully understood, it’s thought to be related to a problem with the immune system. The immune system is your body’s defence against disease and infection, but it attacks healthy skin cells by mistake in people with psoriasis. Skin cells are normally made and replaced every 3 to 4 weeks, but in psoriasis this process only takes about 3 to 7 days. The resulting dead cells pile on top of the skin, forming lesions, which appear on your elbows, knees, scalp and lower back. These are itchy and uncomfortable and very often sore. But aside from the aesthetic impact, there can often be a psychological impact for psoriasis sufferers, with the condition taking a real toll on their self-confidence, especially as many people subscribe to the myth that it is a contagious condition. Also, worth noting is that the chemicals and cells involved in the inflammation have been found to be not only responsible for red scaly patches and plaques on the skin but also joint swellings, pain and can often associated with diabetes, heart disease, joint swellings, inflammatory bowel disease, depression and even cancer.
The severity of psoriasis varies greatly from person to person. For some, it’s just a minor irritation, but for others it can majorly affect their quality of life. It is agreed in the medical community that symptoms can start or become worse because of a certain event, known as a trigger. Possible triggers of psoriasis could include an injury to your skin, throat infections and using certain medicines.
There’s no cure for psoriasis, but thankfully, there has been a steady development of ground-breaking treatment options in the past twenty years, which can alleviate many of the side effects and manage the disease very effectively. A topical treatment, such as vitamin D analogues or topical corticosteroids will be the first treatment step. But if these are not effective, or your condition is more severe, a treatment called phototherapy, which exposes you skin to certain wavelengths of UV light, may be used.