August is Psoriasis Awareness Month. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that speeds up the life cycle of your skin and causes your immune system to attack healthy cells as if they were an invading infection. While psoriasis can be genetic, it is typically triggered by an illness or environmental factors. Psoriasis is much more than a chronic skin condition. It can have a serious impact on your overall health.
Story by Lori Hale
The Effects of Psoriasis on Your Skin
When you have psoriasis, your skin cells work their way to the surface much faster than average. The process that generally happens within a month can take place within days. If you have psoriasis, you may recognize some of the following symptoms:
• Patches of dry red skin
• Cracked skin that may bleed
• Skin that itches or burns
• Small spots with scales (more common for children)
• Silver-looking scales
Keeping your skin, especially any affected areas, well-moisturized may help reduce the severity of your skin outbreaks and prevent some of the psoriasis sores.
The impact of psoriasis is not limited to the comfort and appearance of your skin. Since psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder, you are at risk of additional health complications. Knowing the full impact of psoriasis may be beneficial to your long-term health.
May Increase Your Risk of Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes can be triggered by inflammation, the same type of inflammation found in those with psoriasis. If you have psoriasis, regular screening for diabetes is recommended.
The Potential Effect on Your Joints
Nearly a third of those who have psoriasis will also develop psoriatic arthritis. This is caused by the assault of the immune system on your joints. Unmanaged psoriatic arthritis can lead to permanent joint damage and disability.
Your Vulnerability to Other Autoimmune Diseases
Having psoriasis can cause you to be more likely to develop other autoimmune diseases, like lupus or celiac. Seventeen of the other 21 autoimmune disorders are related to psoriasis. Be aware of any other changes in your health including increased fatigue, fevers or joint pain.
The Potential Harm to Your Vascular System
Your immune system affects nearly every system in your body. This includes your blood vessels. The inflammation caused by your immune system can leave your blood vessels inflamed. This puts you at higher risk of your arteries being hardened or narrowed by plaque.
Psoriasis May Increase Your Risk of a Stroke or Heart Attack
The effect of psoriasis on your vascular system can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. If plaque builds in your coronary or cerebral arteries, it can interfere with the blood supplied to these vital organs. You may be able to reduce this increased risk by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet.
Psoriasis May Affect Your Nails
Psoriasis can cause your fingernails and your toenails to change color. Your nails could turn shades of brown, yellow or green. You may also see pitting on the surface of your nails, or notice marked ridges. You are also susceptible to a white, chalky material forming under your nail that can separate your nail from your skin.
When you have psoriasis, it is likely to affect you throughout your life. You may have episodes of activity and periods of remission, but psoriasis is always there. Psoriasis flairs can last for weeks or even months. When you have psoriasis, you are at risk of developing serious complications. Some of those additional risks include:
• Metabolic Syndrome
• Parkinson’s disease
• Kidney disease
• High blood pressure
• Eye conditions (blepharitis, uveitis or conjunctivitis)
If you notice symptoms of psoriasis, it is important to discuss your concerns with your health-care provider. Your doctor will recommend an appropriate treatment program. Knowing the impact of psoriasis on your body can help you protect your long-term health.