Can you imagine your skin and scalp covered with red scaly patches and people shying away from you as if you have been inflicted by some sort of plague? Can you imagine what life would be like when you are restricted in your day to day activities doing things that you enjoy, like swimming or wearing clothes that you like? Would you rather isolate yourself and withdraw into your own world just so you can avoid stares from curious onlookers?
This is the reality of the many patients who are suffering from psoriasis. Although psoriasis affects 2-3% of the world’s population irrespective of race, age and gender, the awareness of this emotionally draining disease is low among the general public.
I see many psoriasis patients in my clinic and one of the things that struck me most is the negative impact on the quality of life of these patients. They are restricted in the food that they eat, the clothes that they wear, the places that they go to, the type of sports that they take up and the list goes on. To make matters worse, there is not much understanding about this disease that affects them as most of them tend to shop around for the elusive cure (and getting disillusioned in the process).
What Exactly Is Psoriasis?
It is a chronic inflammatory skin disease where thick scaly red patches occur mainly on the knees, elbows and scalp. Any part of the skin surface may be involved and some people may also have nail changes and joint pain.
How Does A Person Get Psoriasis?
While scientists are still working on the exact mechanism, we know that genetics and the immune system play a role in its development. Most researchers agree that the immune system is somewhat mistakenly ‘triggered’ resulting in skin cells being produced too quickly. Normally, it takes about 28 days for the skin cells to replace themselves but in psoriasis, it takes only 2 to 6 days, leading to build up of skin cells on the surface in the form of scales that flake off.
It is not contagious but it may run in the family since genetics play a role. There have been many misconceptions about the trigger factors of psoriasis, such as the type of food consumed. It has however, not been proven that certain food makes psoriasis worse. The few well-known triggers include stress, infection, certain medication and smoking.
There are many ways to treat psoriasis and although no single treatment works for everyone, somehow something will work for most people. We can never predict which medication will work for a particular individual. It is important for the individual to be open-minded and willing to work with the doctor to find a treatment that is best suited for the person. With appropriate treatment and counselling, psoriasis can be well-controlled for a vast majority of sufferers and a normal lifestyle can be achieved.
Dr Agnes Heng is a Consultant Dermatologist in private practice. She is based in Ipoh and has a clinic in Greentown Avenue, Ipoh. If you think you have psoriasis or if you wish to know more about the disease, please call 05-2559992 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Agnes Heng