(RxWiki News) How much harm could a little dry, itchy skin do? This is the attitude with which many people think about psoriasis, not realizing that the skin condition can have far more wide-reaching consequences.
World Psoriasis Day is being recognized around the globe on October 29.
Through observing the day, organizers hope to not only raise awareness, but also to improve access to treatment, increase understanding and build unity among psoriasis patients.
"Talk to a dermatologist about changes in your skin."
According to the International Federation of Psoriasis Associations (IFPA), organizers of the awareness day, "World Psoriasis Day aims to raise the profile of a condition which needs to be taken more seriously by national and international authorities."
IFPA estimates that more than 125 million people around the globe, or 3 percent of the world's population, deal with psoriasis.
The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), a US-based organization, estimates that as many as 7.5 million Americans have the condition, making it the most common autoimmune disorder in the US.
According to NPF, psoriasis is a chronic, autoimmune disease that affects the skin. In patients with psoriasis, the immune system sends out incorrect signals that quicken skin cells' growth cycle. In the most common form of psoriasis, called plaque psoriasis, patients develop raised, red patches on the skin that are covered with a white buildup of dead skin cells.
"Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body and is associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and depression," NPF noted.
According to IFPA, psoriasis can be a difficult and painful disease, yet many without the condition do not fully understand its effects, and regard it as a minor issue.
"Many tolerate constant pain from cracking and bleeding skin. They bear the humiliation of continually shedding scales that litter their clothes and surroundings. They struggle with the disappointment of treatments and the lack of a cure. Some wrestle with a crippling form of arthritis, called psoriatic arthritis," IFPA explained. "More than anything, they sometimes bear the brunt of public rejection because of the misunderstanding surrounding the disease."
In an interview with dailyRx News, Coyle S. Connolly, DO, Board Certified Dermatologist and President of Connolly Dermatology in New Jersey, highlighted both the serious nature of the condition and hope for positive outcomes in patients.
"Psoriasis can be a socially devastating disease that often adversely affects one's sense of self and one's intimate relationships," said Dr. Connolly. "The stigma and mental anguish of psoriasis should not be overlooked. Nor should the frequently associated disease states of arthritis, obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, etc., go untreated."
"Even those with a few areas of skin involvement may experience severe depression and anxiety," said Dr. Connolly. "Therefore, while the skin lesions are not life threatening, the psychological impact of psoriasis should never be trivialized. Increased public awareness will encourage patients to seek medical treatment and educate those who may erroneously believe psoriasis is contagious."
Dr. Connolly told dailyRx News that newly diagnosed patients should take an active role in their treatment.
"While we do not currently have a cure for psoriasis, advances in disease management and treatment have lead to improved quality of life. I would advise a newly diagnosed patient to be their own advocate and thoroughly research their condition...Becoming a member of the NPF will keep one informed of the latest medical advances," said Dr. Connolly.
Dr. Connolly noted that a board certified dermatologist will provide patients with treatment options based on their specific symptoms, condition and lifestyle.
"The message for our psoriasis patients is one of increasing hope and optimism," said Dr. Connolly.
World Psoriasis Day has been observed annually since 2004.