An estimated 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), making it the most common autoimmune disease in the country. Although the skin disease is prevalent, many people are still unaware of its impact. August is National Psoriasis Awareness Month, offering the opportunity to educate the public and dispel myths associated with the disease.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that appears on the skin. The most common form of the disease, plaque psoriasis, appears as raised, red patches covered with an accumulation of white dead skin cells. Psoriasis is not contagious.
As many as 30 percent of people with the disease will be diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, a specific form of arthritis that is painful and debilitating, causing damage to the joints. The emotional aspects, the physical restrictions, and the pain caused by psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis can be disabling.
Diet may affect psoriasis symptoms. The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER) suggests that individuals with psoriasis eat a diet rich in:
Low-fat dairy products
Lean meats and fish
MFMER adds that fish oil – which provides polyunsaturated fatty acids needed to maintain healthy skin – may improve psoriasis symptoms as well.
The American Academy of Dermatology offers tips for managing psoriasis:
1. Learn about treatment options. This will help you make informed decisions and avoid things that can make it worse. Proper treatment can prevent deformed joints and disability
2. Take care of yourself. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking, and drinking very little alcohol will help.
3. Be aware of your joints. If your joints feel stiff and sore, especially when you wake up, see a dermatologist. Stiff or sore joints can be the first sign of psoriatic arthritis.
4. Notice your nails. If your nails begin to pull away from the nail bed or develop pitting, ridges, or a yellowish-orange color, see a dermatologist. These are signs of psoriatic arthritis.
5. Pay attention to your mood. If you feel depressed, you may want to join a psoriasis support group or see a mental health professional.
6. Talk with your dermatologist before you stop taking medicine for psoriasis. Immediately stopping a medicine for psoriasis can have serious consequences.
7. Tell your dermatologist if you cannot afford the medicine. You may be eligible for financial assistance.
Information on drug assistance programs is available at Allsup.com.
Learn more about National Psoriasis Awareness Month and find a support group near you at www.psoriasis.org.