Psoriasis advocates and patients around the world and across the region came together for World Psoriasis Day on October 29 to build awareness of a condition that affects around 125 million people across the world, emotionally, physically through thickened scaly plaques on the skin, and socially.
Psoriasis is a serious chronic skin condition characterized by patches of thickened red, covered with silvery white scaly skin called plaques. Normally, every 28-30 days, the skin renews itself with new cells being formed at the bottom layer which then mature and rise to the top layer over the month-long period. With psoriasis, the renewal process is accelerated and psoriatic cells can develop and reach the skin surface in just three to five days. While normal skin cells are shed unnoticed, psoriasis skin cells build up and form the characteristic raised, scaly lesions or plaques. Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body, although the elbows, knees and scalp are the most common sites.
Dr. Amal Al Shaiji, Consultant Dermatologist at Hamad Medical Corporation, said: “One of the major misconceptions about psoriasis is that people think it is contagious. It is not contagious and it cannot be transferred from one part of the body to another. Misperceptions such as these contribute significantly to the way patients are treated by others, and subsequently, the way they feel about themselves.”
It is easy to see the physical effects of psoriasis. What most people do not realize is that the disease has a serious emotional and psychological impact as well. People with psoriasis report feeling embarrassed and stigmatized because of their skin and experience anxiety and stress as a result of reactions from the public. The disease has been linked to an increased risk of developing a number of other conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and depression.
It is believed that people with psoriasis may have a genetic pre-disposition for the disease and can also have their condition triggered by environmental factors. The triggers may include stress, infection with certain viruses and bacteria, skin injury or reactions to certain medications.
In addition, psoriasis may be an independent risk factor for heart attack, particularly in younger people with severe psoriasis. Patients in their 40s with severe psoriasis are more likely to suffer a heart attack as people without the skin disease.
Dr. Al Shaiji added: “Psoriasis is a chronic but manageable condition, there are a range of treatments available that can help to reduce symptoms including topical medicines, photo treatments using light, systemic drugs and biologic therapies. A change in lifestyle habits can also help including maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly and refraining from smoking.”
Psoriasis patients do not need to feel alone. With proper education, treatment and the support of friends, family and healthcare professionals, patients can successfully manage their disease. When treated and managed properly patients can live their lives with less symptoms or even symptom free.
For more information on World Psoriasis Day please visit the World Psoriasis Day website: www.worldpsoriasisday.com.
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