Treating your psoriasis seriously is the theme for World Psoriasis Day. As the National Psoriasis Foundation puts it, “that’s the day when you can stand with 125 million people who live with psoriasis and treat psoriasis seriously by figuring out how the disease impacts your health.” I had the chance to interview Kathleen Carter, Associate Director of the Patient Navigation Center with the National Psoriasis Foundation and we discussed steps you can take today to treat your psoriasis seriously.
HealthCentral (HC): Why is it important to treat psoriasis seriously?
Kathleen Carter: Psoriasis is a serious disease that can have an effect on your body in a variety of ways. Historically, people have dismissed psoriasis as a skin disease and question whether or not to treat it. But research is showing the effects of inflammation that is happening inside the body when you have psoriasis. Those effects are not just isolated to what you see on the skin. There are effects on your internal system, which put you at an increased risk of comorbidities and much more.
We at the National Psoriasis Foundation think it’s important to treat your psoriasis seriously because treatment can improve your quality of life and your health outcomes physically, emotionally, and mentally. When you’re treating your disease at a level that’s appropriate to your disease severity, that’s when you start to see your overall quality of life improve.
HC: Why is it important to see a dermatologist who specializes in psoriasis?
Carter: Dermatologists who specialize in psoriasis are the ones who will offer you the biggest array of treatment options when it comes to psoriasis. Right now there are more treatment options than ever before, from topicals to biologics to pills. Some treatments do have more requirements when it comes to long-term use. That’s where a doctor who specializes in psoriasis will be the most knowledgeable, tailoring treatment options to your specific needs. A combination treatment can be an option as well--experimenting with two different types of treatments together.
HC: Can you talk about the increased chance of comorbidities when you do have psoriasis?
Carter: There are a number of diseases associated with psoriasis. The risk of these increase with disease severity and uncontrolled inflammation. NIH researchers have looked at the pattern of psoriasis in the body. A 2017 NPF Annual Survey reports that the top three comorbidities people with psoriatic disease most commonly experience include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and depression. Comorbidity risk is tied to disease severity. One study found that people with severe psoriasis are 1.5 times more likely to report having heart disease, compared to those with mild to moderate psoriasis. Another study found that people with severe psoriasis were 46 percent more likely to have diabetes. A study looking at the incidence of cancer in people with psoriasis found that people with psoriasis had a 34 percent increased risk of developing lymphoma, a rare form of cancer.
HC: If someone with psoriasis is experiencing joint pain, what should they do?
Carter: It’s important to know that up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis. Any unexplained joint pain should be discussed with your healthcare provider immediately. Studies show that delaying treatment for psoriatic arthritis as little as six months can result in permanent joint damage. Early recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of psoriatic arthritis are critical to relieve pain and inflammation and help prevent joint damage. Your dermatologist can also refer you to a rheumatologist who will then further examine joint pain. It’s important to get a plan in place as soon as possible to prevent any further joint damage or progression that may be irreversible. The National Psoriasis Foundation also has a screener tool on the website that can help recognize signs of psoriatic arthritis. You can then take those results to your doctor.
HC: What are some resources for someone who wants to start treating their psoriasis seriously or even someone who is newly diagnosed?
Carter: The Patient Navigation Center is a place where you can have actual conversations with patient navigators. It provides free and personalized assistance to anyone impacted by psoriatic disease, including families and caregivers. Print resources are also available: chronic pain management resources (including the Free Pain Management Guide) and an Appointment Prep Kit. In the One to One peer mentor program, you will be matched with someone who is living with the disease to help you along your psoriasis diagnosis journey.
HC: What are your top three tips for patients to take steps toward treating their psoriasis?
Carter: Participate in this pledge for World Psoriasis Day where you commit to taking one meaningful step towards taking your disease seriously. Learn about a variety of treatment options that are available to you so you feel empowered to make the right treatment choices with your doctors. Make an appointment with a specialized dermatologist to understand your risk and set goals for your treatment plan. This way you are able to manage your psoriatic disease to a level of clearance.
Right now is the time to take your health into your own hands. What will you do today? Take the pledge with me and start taking your psoriasis seriously.