For years, psoriasis suffers have battled patches of rough, reddened, and intensely itchy skin that can cause pain as well embarrassment, with little hope of relief.
But major breakthroughs have been logged in the treatment of this potentially debilitating disorder that affects almost 10 million Americans, including small children. And if you are suffering from the disease, its time to take action.
To spotlight the treatments that have emerged in recent years, the National Psoriasis Foundation is observing National Psoriasis Action month in August.
The NPF Foundation wants to spread the word that there have been tremendous advancements in the number of treatment options for people living with the condition. The NPF has even launched a website to educate patients, caregivers and health care professionals about the resources to treat psoriatic disease.
Throughout August, people impacted by psoriasis can participate in interactive quizzes that will help them better understand and manage their disease, Dr. Michael Siegel, Ph.D, vice president of Research Programs at the NPF tells Newsmax Health.
Psoriasis often develops between the ages of 15 and 35, but it can develop at any age. While scientists do not know exactly what causes psoriasis, it is known that the immune system and genetics play major roles in its development.
Usually, something triggers the condition to flare. The skin cells in people with psoriasis grow at an abnormally fast rate, which leads to painful lesions on the body.
The genetic link is clear, says Siegal.
If one parent has psoriasis, there is about a 10 percent chance of a child contracting it. If both parents have psoriasis, the chance increases to 50 percent, he notes.
Dr. Kenneth Beer, associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Miami, tells Newsmax Health that the No. 1 myth about psoriasis is that it is just dry skin.
Its far more than that, he says. Psoriasis is an immune disease in which the body stimulates growth of skin cells in an abnormal way. It is largely genetic and may be associated with stress, infection medication or a range of other issues. In addition to affecting the skin, it can frequently affect the joints of the body.
Another myth is that the condition is contagious. Not so, says Beer. And while it is not curable at this point in time, it is manageable and treatable. But if you dont take care of your psoriasis, it can lead to serious medical conditions.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people with psoriasis are at a great risk for Type 2 diabetes as well as vision problems and heart disease. About 30 percent of people who have psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis, according to the NPF.
Reality TV star Kim Kardashian revealed that she suffers from the condition and that stress plays a key role in her flare-ups of psoriasis. Two-time Grammy winning songstress LeAnn Rimes kept her struggle hidden until 2008 when she decided to open up about her experience as part of the Stop Hiding, Start Living awareness campaign sponsored by Abbott, which makes the psoriasis drug, Humira.
Other celebs with psoriasis include comedian Jon Lovitz and Leave it to Beaver star Jerry Mathers, who admits that the condition is no laughing matter.
Siegel says that treating psoriasis involves good disease management and paying attention overall health.
With advances in the number of treatment options available today for people living with psoriasis its easier than ever to treat the condition, he says. The biggest breakthrough came 10 years ago with the introduction of injectable biologics which changed the lives of patients and their providers.
By targeting specific pathways in the immune system, these biologics have demonstrated remarkable outcomes in clinical trials. Moving forward, scientists are likely to reveal even more effective treatments and will be able to harness the same targeted therapy for oral and topical treatments as well.
Some examples of biologic drugs to treat psoriasis include Humira, Enbrel, and Remicade.
Siegel says that some people believe that eliminating certain foods from their diet, such as gluten, dairy, sugar, or red meat can reduce inflammation and therefore lower their chances of a psoriatic flare.
Others believe that consuming certain vitamins, herbs and supplements, such as fish oil or turmeric, can do the same, he says. The truth is that there is not enough scientific evidence to substantiate these claims, and the medical community doesnt know for sure how diet impacts psoriatic disease.
What the medical community does agree on, however, is that people with psoriatic disease should maintain a healthy weight, and thats where diet and exercise can play and important role. Research has found that maintaining a healthy weight lowers the risk of developing co-morbidities or related health conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
Siegel says that another big myth about psoriasis is that there isnt a treatment available for patients to achieve clear or nearly clear skin.
This is simply not true, he says. There have been tremendous advancements and there are currently a number of safe, effective and affordable options. The first step people living with psoriasis should take is to work with their health care provider to discuss a treatment strategy. By following a goal-oriented, trackable treatment strategy, people living with psoriasis should expect to begin seeing results in three to six months.
Adds Beer: Psoriasis is now one of the most researched skin diseases and each year we get better and better treatments. See your dermatologist to get more information.
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