7 Invisible Effects of Psoriasisby Alisha Bridges Patient Advocate
It's the visible effects of psoriasis that get most of the attention -- from doctors, family members and friends, even strangers -- but there are numerous effects that can't be seen. As a result, these are often neglected. Here are seven of those effects and how they can affect one’s life with psoriasis.
People with psoriasis may face discrimination in public places, including swimming pools, spas, and hair salons. Because of common misconceptions, the quality of life for someone with a chronic condition like psoriasis can be particularly challenging. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis patients are twice as likely to experience depression – especially considering the stigma that can come with the condition.
It's not unusual for someone with psoriasis to wear long sleeves to hide his or her skin -- even when it’s 99 degrees outside. Covering up is part of the common tendency to isolate yourself. If you have psoriasis, it's important to find people who love and care for you despite your disease, and make sure to spend time with them.
Lack of vitamin D
A recent study suggests that vitamin D insufficiency can occur in people with psoriasis as well as in those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Vitamin D plays a role in immune system function, and exposure to sunlight and uva/uvb light light can improve psoriasis symptoms in some patients. Talk to your healthcare provider before using medications that include vitamin D or vitamin D supplements.
About 30 percent of psoriasis patients will also develop psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis range from moderate to severe, but the disease typically gets worse without proper treatment. In serious cases, the joints can become damaged and disfigured. It’s very important to see a rheumatologist if you experience joint pain.
When you experience fatigue, you feel weak and that you lack strength -- no matter how much sleep you get. Fatigue can be caused by being overworked, eating an unhealthy diet, or by certain medications or illnesses. Having a chronic disease like psoriasis can make fatigue worse. Although researchers don’t know much about the relationship between psoriasis and fatigue, they do know fatigue begins in the brain and results from chemicals released by inflammation.
Itching, which serves as an important sensory and self-protection mechanism in response to irritation of skin or nerve cells, is a difficult and often bothersome symptom of psoriasis for many people who have the condition. Keep your skin moisturized at night, avoid hot showers or baths, and/or sleep in light gloves to fight against severe itching throughout the night.
The American College of Cardiology reports that people with psoriasis are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people without the condition. Psoriasis increases stroke risk to as much as 54 percent, and heart attack risk to as high as 21 percent. A study from the NIH states that patients with psoriasis should be educated about their cardiovascular risks and aggreesively screened for any signs of cardiovascular symptoms.
A final note
If you have psoriasis, it’s important to speak out about your symptoms, feelings, and concerns. Hopefully, you are pleasantly surprised with the amount of support you receive. In addition, you may be surprised at just how many other people also have the disease and are hesitant or too afraid to speak out about it.