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Written by Azeen Sadeghian, MD
August is Psoriasis Awareness Month, giving us an opportunity to shed light on this misunderstood skin condition. Psoriasis is characterized by inflamed, scaling skin plaques that flake, bleed easily, and may be itchy. These plaques favor extensor, posterior auricular, and sacral areas. The scalp, nails, and genital areas may also be involved. Psoriasis that affects the joints is known as psoriatic arthritis, which causes pain and even permanent joint destruction.
Research indicates that the significant inflammation of affected skin and joints appears to be associated with other organ systems as well. People who have psoriasis are at increased risk for cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease. These patients may have increased risk of cancer as well. These comorbidities highlight the importance of routine health maintenance and ensuring compliance with regular cancer screenings in this population.
Patients typically don’t readily share if there is genital involvement or impairment of intimacy due to disease, so it is worthwhile to check for this as it greatly can impact quality of life. There is a significant psychosocial impact on those who have the condition due to the visible, palpable, symptomatic, and even private involvement of psoriasis; therefore, patients should be screened for psychological impact.
Psoriasis can impact interpersonal relationships and cause social difficulties; patients are also at risk for depression and drug and alcohol abuse. Fortunately, research has skyrocketed in the past decade; we now have novel targeted treatments.
Overall, psoriasis is a skin disease with systemic associations. Clinicians are becoming more aware of the overall impact of this disease. Evolving research is allowing improved therapy options for specialties treating psoriasis, which is promising news for patients.
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