Psoriasis

10 Things Kim Kardashian Needs to Know About Psoriasis

Amy Tudor Jul 20th, 2012 (updated Jul 22nd, 2016)
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In the July 24 episode of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" Kim Kardashian learned that she had psoriasis, a skin condition her mother also has. Here are 10 things to know about psoriasis.

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Psoriasis is Not Rare
Psoriasis is Not Rare

Psoriasis is a chronic auto-immune skin condition that results in dry, flaky, red and itchy skin. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis. It occurs more frequently in Caucasians than other races and while people of any age can have it, psoriasis commonly presents itself for the first time between the ages of 15 and 35. 

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Psoriasis is Hereditary
Psoriasis is Hereditary

Psoriasis is a genetic condition that can be passed down in a family. However, just because a parent has the condition does not mean their children will definitely have it, but it is likely to show up somewhere down the family line. Psoriasis is purely genetic and is not caused by stress, allergies, infections, deficiencies and so on. Although, some of these can be triggers for a flare-up.

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Psoriasis is Not Contagious
Psoriasis is Not Contagious

The fact that psoriasis is a genetic disease also means it is not contagious. The skin condition cannot be passed from one person to another and it does not spread from one part of the body to another through contact.

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Psoriasis Can Lead to Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriasis Can Lead to Psoriatic Arthritis

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, up to 30% of those with psoriasis may develop psoriatic arthritis. This is characterized by pain and swelling in the joints, especially fingers, toes, neck, lower back, knees and ankles. Psoriatic arthritis is more common in men than women and typically shows up between the ages of 30 and 50. It is important to diagnose it early so it can be treated before it has a chance to become debilitating.

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Psoriasis Can Show Up on Any Part of the Body
Psoriasis Can Show Up on Any Part of the Body

Although psoriasis can show up on any part of the body, it is most often seen on the elbows, knees, scalp, trunk and even fingernails. If it presents itself on the fingernails, there will be indentions and yellow or brown discoloration on the nail. If left untreated, the fingernail can separate from the nail bed.

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Diagnosing Psoriasis
Diagnosing Psoriasis

Psoriasis is normally diagnosed by a dermatologist. They will go through the patient's history, look at the skin lesions or plaques and sometimes even take a skin biopsy. To find a dermatologist or rheumatologist (if you have psoriatic arthritis) near you, the National Psoriasis Foundation has an online physician directory where you can search by geographic location.

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Psoriasis Can be Linked to Other Medical Conditions
Psoriasis Can be Linked to Other Medical Conditions

A study has found that people with psoriasis can be more at risk for other medical issues like heart attack or stroke. The reasoning behind this is that the chronic inflammation damages blood vessels, which can lead to heart problems. Other conditions people with psoriasis may be at greater risk for are inflammatory bowl disease and diabetes. It is important to regularly check with your doctor for signs of these conditions.   

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Psoriasis Triggers
Psoriasis Triggers

The factors that trigger someone's psoriasis are unique for each individual, but there are some common triggers. These include stress, injuries to the skin, smoking, alcohol, pregnancy, endocrine changes, cold weather, and bacterial and viral infections. Psoriasis may be more serious in people whose immune systems are already suppressed, such as those with AIDS, those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer or those with other autoimmune disorders.

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Some Medications Can Cause Psoriasis Flare-Ups
Some Medications Can Cause Psoriasis Flare-Ups

Certain medications can trigger a psoriasis flare-up or exacerbate existing symptoms. These include Lithium (used to treat bipolar disorder), Inderal (used to treat high blood pressure), Quinidine (a heart medication), Indomethacin (used to treat arthritis), antimalarials and some beta blockers.

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Psoriasis Can be Treated, but Not Cured
Psoriasis Can be Treated, but Not Cured

For mild cases, topical medications like corticosteroids, antibiotics or antifungals can be used. For more severe cases, phototherapy can sometimes be used, as can the medication Enbrel, which is said to target the cause of the condition at the cellular level. Recently, Stelara was reported by the National Institutes of Health to be more effective than Enbrel in improving severe cases of psoriasis.