More Than Skin Deep: Busting The Myths On Psoriasis

In a world in which many people define their worth by the number of likes they get on their selfies, psoriasis can be a heavy burden for sufferers to bear. Not only does the condition impact their appearance, but it can also cause a great deal of physical and emotional suffering. World Psoriasis Day, which is marked internationally on 29 October by the International Federation of Psoriasis Associations, aims to highlight the psychological, emotional, mental and socioeconomic burdens of psoriasis, and calls on society to give people with the disease more support.

What is this disease?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognised psoriasis as a serious non-communicable disease which can actually shorten lifespan, and which therefore requires better global awareness and care. For the 125 million people worldwide with psoriasis, this recognition provides hope that governments will improve education about this disease and access to effective treatments.

“It’s a myth that psoriasis is solely a skin disease,” says Dr Nicola Lister, Chief Scientific Officer & Medical Director, Novartis Southern Africa. “While it does manifest most obviously in the skin, psoriasis can be directly linked to other major non-communicable diseases. Many studies have reported the coexistence of psoriasis with other serious systemic diseases including cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes mellitus, depression and Crohn’s disease.  It also negatively impacts self-esteem and interpersonal relationships.” Psoriasis is a non-communicable, painful and disfiguring disease that can occur at any age. This disease is a serious global problem affecting over 125 million people around the world.

The most commonly-reported symptoms include:

  • scaling and cracking of the skin,
  • itching,
  • swelling,
  • burning and bleeding,
  • fatigue
  • joint pain
  • nail problems.

psoriasis | Longevity LIVE

Psoriasis can be associated with an inflammatory arthritis known as psoriatic arthritis, which involves the joints of the spine and other joints. This should be diagnosed and treated as early as possible, to prevent joint degeneration, joint deformity and disability.

Because psoriasis causes highly visible symptoms, patients can feel isolated and embarrassed, angry and helpless, which impacts on their relationships at home, school and work.

How can psoriasis be treated?

“Three major forms of therapy are used to control the symptoms of psoriasis – topical treatment, phototherapy and systemic therapy,” says Dr Lister. “In addition, understanding the triggers causing flare ups may help, so that the patient can avoid these. It’s also important to raise awareness of the disease so that those burdened with the disease do not have to suffer stigmatisation and discrimination. Equally, all stakeholders aside from patients should raise their commitment to better manage this disease as it is a great physical, emotional and social burden.” Click here for Harvard Health’s take on skincare and serums that actually work against dark spots and wrinkles.

Want to know more?

When it comes to our finger and toenails, we often pay them little to no attention – unless it’s for aesthetic purposes. However, like our hair and skin, our nails can provide a window into the state of our health – proving that there’s more to them than bright colours and manicures. Healthy nails are smooth and strong with even colouring and free of both spots and discolouration. A change in the shape, texture and colour of our nails can reveal health issues ranging from nutrient deficiencies to cardiovascular disease. Although not all changes could be a sign of ill-health, it’s important to be aware of what a change in nail appearance could mean. Click here to find out more about what your fingernails may be trying to tell you about the rest of your health.