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6 Must-Know Facts About Psoriasis

Answers about the rumored “psoriasis diet,” health risks and a rare but very dangerous form of psoriasis.

If you or someone you know has plaque psoriasis, you’re probably familiar with the symptoms—raised, scaly patches on the skin that are uncomfortable, sometimes painful and oftentimes itchy (in fact, the name psoriasis is derived from a Greek word that means “to itch”). These patches most often appear on the elbows, knees and scalp, but can appear anywhere on the body.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, meaning it is caused by the immune system attacking healthy cells. In this case, that response causes new skin cells to grow at a faster rate than old skin cells can be shed.

Keep reading for five more must-know facts about psoriasis.

1. Psoriasis is more common than you think
If you have psoriasis, you’re not alone: Approximately 7.5 million people are diagnosed with a form of psoriasis and 150,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.

2. Finding the right treatment can take time
It’s not uncommon for psoriasis patients to change treatments several times before finding a treatment that works. Research shows that psoriasis patients change treatments once a year on average. So, if you’re not happy with your symptom control, don’t be shy about bringing it up with your healthcare provider. There are many different treatment options available, and it might take you several tries to find the right one.

3. There’s more than one type of psoriasis
Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of psoriasis, but there are several other types, including psoriasis that can cause outbreaks of pustules that require medical attention (pustular psoriasis) and psoriasis that cause bright red lesions in folds of skin, such as the armpits or under the breasts (inverse psoriasis).

The most serious type of psoriasis is erythrodermic psoriasis, a rare form of the condition that causes widespread redness of the skin, shedding of large sheets of skin, severe pain and itching, chills, fever and joint pain. Because erythrodermic psoriasis can cause fluctuations in body temperature and seriously disrupts body chemistry, immediate medical attention is necessary.

4. There is no “psoriasis diet,” but a healthy diet is still a good idea
Many people claim that certain foods trigger flare-ups and that eliminating certain foods helps clear up psoriasis. There are also a ton of websites boasting diets and nutritional supplements as a treatment for psoriasis. However, there hasn’t been conclusive evidence that a specific diet or dietary change can have a significant impact on psoriasis treatment.

If you do decide to make changes to your diet, take a supplement or try an elimination diet, talk to your healthcare provider beforehand.

Remember that a healthy, balanced diet still has a ton of benefits, including weight control, increased energy levels and lower risk of chronic disease—something that is very important when you learn about the potential complications of psoriasis.

5. Psoriasis is linked to higher risk of heart disease
Psoriasis is also associated with a number of other health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity.

One study found that those with severe forms of psoriasis are 58 percent more likely to have a cardiac event and 43 percent are more likely to have a stroke. Another determined that people with severe psoriasis have a 30 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Why? It is thought that the inflammation caused by psoriasis may contribute to heart disease, as well as other comorbidities.

If you have psoriasis, take steps to protect your heart. Eat well, exercise and get enough hours of sleep each day. Have your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels checked regularly. Work with your healthcare provider to find a psoriasis treatment plan that works for you.

6. Psoriasis is NOT contagious—and has nothing to do with personal hygiene
While the exact cause of psoriasis isn’t fully understood, it’s believed to be the result of certain genetics combined with triggers such as environmental factors, infections and skin injuries.

Healthcare experts do know two things for certain, however: Psoriasis is not contagious and has nothing to do with personal hygiene. Because psoriasis manifests as red, patchy lesions on the skin, those living with the condition are often subject to undue judgment. But the bottom line is psoriasis cannot be passed from person-to-person and is not caused by a lack of cleanliness.

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