10 Things Kim Kardashian Should Know About Psoriasis

Amy Tudor | Jul 20th 2012

Reviewed by Michael Lehrer, MD

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Credit: Wikimedia Commons: Eva Rinaldi Photography

In a summer 2011 episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” celebrity Kim Kardashian learned that she had psoriasis, a skin condition her mother also has. Since her diagnosis, she has discussed living with the disease, including on her personal app. Here are 10 things we’d like to share about psoriasis that Kim might also want to share, or has already.

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons: Eva Rinaldi Photography)

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Psoriasis is not rare

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Psoriasis is a chronic auto-immune skin condition that results in dry, flaky, red and itchy skin. Per 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

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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.

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Psoriasis is not contagious

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The fact that psoriasis does have a genetic component 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

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According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, up to 30 percent of those with psoriasis may also 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

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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

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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

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

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Psoriasis triggers

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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

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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

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For mild cases, topical medications like corticosteroids can be used. For moderate cases, phototherapy or oral medications can sometimes be used. For more severe cases, several injectable medications that alter the body’s immune response to the skin are now available.