Healthy Living gets itchy with Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition that is not contagious. In this week’s segment of Healthy Living, a dermatologist discusses its effects and recommends early treatment to control the skin condition.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

If you had a patch of red itchy skin on your elbow, especially in our “Cold front season” in Belize, you’d probably overlook it as dry skin. However, there are several skin diseases that are initiated by red itchy patches. One such condition is psoriasis. While it may seem like a superficial skin disease, Psoriasis can have a devastating effect on every aspect of a person’s life. Dermatologist, Dr Jorge Lopez Granja, tells us more about this condition.

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja, Dermatologist

“Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition. That means that the immune system mistake the skin as a pathogen or a foreign object and thus sends faulty signals so that the skin cells would replicate faster would multiply faster. So clinically you see it as patches of skin with lots of whitish scales. It could look very reddish as well. It’s a condition that affects equally females and males there are certain types of people that tend to have it less. It’s very infrequent in Japan, it’s infrequent in Native American and South American Indians; it would be more common in Caucasians. As to the age there are specific ages; one around twenty-two years of age the other around fifty years of age and it also could present in children about seventeen percent of the cases and the usual age of presentation in children is eight years of age.”

The actual cause for the disease is unknown but the main risk factor is that of your family history.

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“We know from statistics that if one of the parents have psoriasis then the chances of the child to have psoriasis is about eight percent. If both the parents have psoriasis the chance goes as high as up to forty-one percent.”

There are several types of psoriasis. Once you’ve been diagnosed it can be properly classified. The early symptoms include itching and the appearance of plaques: the build-up of skin that forms thick patches.

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“The classical psoriasis lesions would be a plaque that would be looking red, beefy red, and then have like whitish scales or flakes on top of it and it would usually present on the scalp, elbows, knees or lower back. The size of them could vary. It could be widespread like I said or it could affect only certain areas. In about seventy-seven percent of the cases luckily it’s just a mild condition a mild affection. So we’re talking about it affect hands for example, the bottom of the feet, the scalp which is very common. Sometimes it would start on the scalp and then sometime later it would start to spread.”

Psoriasis is NOT contagious. However, having unsightly red flaky patches on the skin can lead to a lot of physical & psychological discomfort.

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“The psychological toll that this disease takes on patients it’s very, very high. There are some studies that say that patients with psoriasis have a thirty percent chance of increase in chances of having anxiety, about forty-four percent increase in suicidal thoughts and about twenty-something percent to have depression.”

Dr. Lopez says in treating patients he does recommend care for the psychological issues as well. Not all treatment options are available in Belize but a patient can initiate treatment for mild psoriasis. Most important for the patient is to try to avoid triggers.

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“When the weather gets cool, people would say cool but what happens is that there is low humidity, and weather tends to be dry then psoriasis would flare. It would flare with skin trauma. It could flare with the use of certain medication, for example medication for hypertension could make the psoriasis flare. Alcohol would make it flare as well. Sometimes this could be a vicious cycle. We were talking about the psychological impact. I fi feel depressed I might turn to addictions to try to cope and alcoholism is one of them So I start drinking and psoriasis gets even worse.”

Stress is also closely linked to outbreaks. There is no cure for this condition but with proper treatment it can be controlled and as Dr Lopez indicates, the complications that can come from psoriasis are sever so the sooner you seek treatment the better.

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“Books tell you psoriasis is a chronic condition, that’s a nice way of saying there is no cure but in my experience that they get rid of the condition for many, many years.”

Marleni Cuellar

“So it can be controlled?”

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“Definitely that is the aim of the medication. Before we thought it’s just a skin problem, now we know that psoriasis actually rises the odds for people to have a stroke for example. Cardiovascular risk and the relation of psoriasis with metabolic syndrome which could be seen with central obesity, high blood pressure, your blood sugar higher than one hundred milligrams per deciliter; if you have all of that and psoriasis, you are—especially men—are like three times more likely to have a heart attack.”

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