Often, you’ll hear people say that they have psoriasis. It’s become a bit of a buzzword for skin conditions of late. It might be that the person has undiagnosed psoriasis or they actually have eczema or other forms of dermatitis, but psoriasis is actually an autoimmune disease.
What is an autoimmune disease
Firstly, it’s worth understanding what an autoimmune disease actually is.
An autoimmune disease is, in its basic term, is a conditional that causes an abnormal reaction to what is a normal body part or function. There are loads of autoimmune diseases out there and nearly all body parts can be affected by some form of autoimmune disease.
The causes are unknown, some can be hereditary and others completely independent of genetics. Some common autoimmune diseases you may have heard of include celiac disease, diabetes mellitus type 1 (type 1 diabetes), inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus).
Treatment for autoimmune diseases can vary drastically depending on the condition but can include taking immunosuppressants or anti-inflammatory medication.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune diseases that affects the skin – the bodies largest organ. It’s a long-lasting autoimmune disease that causes abnormal, raised areas of skin which is typically red/purple in colour and often has a scale like texture.
A common symptom to accompany the scaly, raised and discoloured skin is intense itchiness – which, as you can image, causes quite a bit of discomfort. Though it looks so, it is important to note that psoriasis is not contagious. Studies show it’s likely to be a genetic condition, although this isn’t always the case.
There is no cure for psoriasis and it’s like to come in cycles. “Flares” (a common term relating to autoimmune diseases) can come when your immune system is compromised and other factors such as stress and environment can have an affect.
Treatments for psoriasis can include steroid creams, vitamin D3 cream, ultraviolet light and immune system suppressing medications. Unfortunately, having psoriasis – like other autoimmune diseases – comes with an increased risk of developing other autoimmune diseases in the future.
Maintaining a good immune system
While having a good immune system is important overall, it’s even more important when you have any type of autoimmune disease.
A low or poorly supported immune system increases the likelihood of flares in autoimmune disease symptoms.
Anything from stress, illness and environmental factors like smoking or too much alcohol can result in a weak or compromised immune system, increasing the likelihood of symptoms occuring.
There are a number of ways to ensure your immune system is working tip top, such as:
- Getting enough sleep
- Staying hydrated
- Eating antioxidant rich foods, like fruit and vegetables
- Eating healthy fats, like fish and nuts
- Limiting added sugars or additives
- Maintaining good gut health
- Reducing stress
Generally living a health lifestyle will result in a better supported immune system. That doesn’t mean not being allowed to partake in alcohol or sweets/fatty foods, but it’s about everything in moderation.
Emotional/mental impact of Psoriasis
While psoriasis is manageable, it often takes its toll both physically and mentally.
Imagine how you feel when you look in the mirror and a new spot has appeared on your face. For most people, it makes them sad or frustrated. That’s amplified when you have a skin condition (whether it’s psoriasis, eczema or dermatitis), but those negative feelings often exacerbate psoriasis systems. Increases in feelings of stress often cause symptoms to become worse.
Psoriasis can also affect any area of the body, including the face, scalp, arms and legs. These are areas that are particularly difficult to cover up. Psoriasis symptoms aren’t nice to look at and often people see someone with psoriasis and instantly think they have a contagious skin condition, leading to the desire to hide it. Piling on clothes causes irritation and is uncomfortable for psoriasis prone skin.
All of this can lead to feeling incredible unhappy, self-conscious and generally has a negative impact on the sufferers mood, feelings and emotions. This can lead to a long term negative impact on their general mental wellbeing.
The overall impact of autoimmune diseases if often overlooked, but the short and long term effects that those suffering with these lifelong conditions face is something that shouldn’t be brushed aside.