Severe itchiness, scaly patches, dry spots, cracked or bleeding skin, soreness, swollen and stiff joints. These are just some of the many symptoms of psoriasis, a chronic, immune inflammatory disorder that affects the skin, nails, and joints.
Doctors don't know all of the factors that go into developing psoriasis, but researchers think it's caused by an overactive immune system that leads to inflamed, scaling patches on the skin, and in a third of patients, inflammation in the joints. If you're one of the 7.5 million Americans afflicted with this condition, you know the physical, mental, and emotional toll it can take.
While there's no cure, dermatologists want you to know that there are safe and effective treatments that can help manage and minimize your symptoms. Since August is Psoriasis Awareness Month, here are a few things that dermatologists at the University of Utah want you to be aware of if you're seeking relief or just learning about this disease.
Psoriasis isn't contagious
Many psoriasis patients are scared to go out in public because they're worried people will judge them for their appearance. So, here's a tip: When you see people with visible skin changes, don't assume they're going to spread their condition to you. Psoriasis isn't contagious. Psoriasis is fairly common and can affect people of all ages, races, and ethnicities.
Psoriasis is treatable
Currently, there's no cure for psoriasis. But several treatments can help reduce inflammation and slow down how quickly your skin cells grow and shed.
Treatment may include:
- Ointments and creams to moisturize your skin
- Natural sunlight or in-office prescription ultraviolet light (under a doctor's supervision)
- Prescription topical agents containing steroids (cortisones), Vitamin D agents, or retinoids
- Oral medications that reduce inflammation in the skin, such as methotrexate, cyclosporine, and apremilast
- Injectable medications ("biologics") that also reduce inflammation in the skin
Doctors can customize treatment to your needs
If you're dealing with psoriasis, the best thing to do is meet with a dermatologist who can help you determine the best course of action.
Megan E. Prouty, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in treating patients with psoriasis. She joined the team of psoriasis experts at the University of Utah Department of Dermatology in July 2021. Along with her colleagues, Dr. Prouty is committed to improving patients' lives through effective treatment.
"Dermatology offers a connection between treating disease, helping improve lives, and helping patients feel more confidence," Prouty said. She loves walking into an exam room and immediately being able to say, "I know what you have and how to treat you."
"How you treat a patient can depend a lot on their comorbidities (underlying medical conditions). You take it all into account to tailor the best treatment for them. For example, if a patient is thinking about having a child soon, we talk about options that are safe during pregnancy."
Psoriasis patients often have an increased risk of comorbidities that can include psoriatic arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, liver disease, and even depression. The most common of these comorbidities is psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriasis doesn't just affect your skin
Customized treatment is especially important since psoriasis doesn't limit itself to your skin. Psoriasis patients often have increased risk of comorbidities that can include psoriatic arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, liver disease, and even depression. The most common of these comorbidities is psoriatic arthritis.
"Psoriatic arthritis affects 30% of patients with psoriasis, and left undiagnosed and untreated, can lead to joint damage and even disability," notes Kristina Duffin, MD, Chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Utah. "However, the good news is that many of the same treatments for psoriasis are also highly effective for psoriatic arthritis." She also notes that many oral and biologic treatments for psoriatic disease also have been shown to reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Make an appointment with a dermatologist
Don't let psoriasis take control of your life; take control of your psoriasis! Relief is as simple as scheduling an appointment with your dermatologist. The specialists at the University of Utah Department of Dermatology are experts in helping you find the treatment that works best for you. To schedule an appointment, visit their website or call 801-581-2955 today.