August is Psoriasis awareness month. You might find it odd that a skin condition warrants an entire awareness month, but psoriasis can actually be a major sign of another related condition within the body. And frequently, when psoriasis begins, people mistake the symptoms for dandruff, eczema, or another more benign skin problem. It’s important to learn about psoriasis, so that you can recognize the condition if it appears, and get help promptly.
Psoriasis is essentially overproduction of skin cells. Normally, skin cells are created beneath the surface, rise to the top, and eventually die and are sloughed off. This is a continual process, of course, and none of us notice it happening. The life cycle of a skin cell is about one month from start to finish.
But with psoriasis, the skin rapidly over-produces these cells. Without time to gradually build up and fall off, the cells accumulate in scaly patches that can become irritated or even bleed.
Patches of psoriasis can pop up anywhere on the body, but are most common on:
- The scalp
- Joints like elbows and knees
The patches or scales can become red and inflamed, or even bleed at times. That’s uncomfortable enough, but psoriasis is actually linked to other, more serious conditions such as:
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Anxiety and depression
In other words, psoriasis might not be “just” a skin condition. It can be a sign of something else going wrong in the body, so it’s important to tell your doctor about your symptoms. In rare cases, a severe form of the condition called erythrodermic psoriasis is life-threatening itself.
If you’ve been diagnosed with psoriasis, your doctor can help you determine the right medications to help manage your symptoms. Together you can discuss whether you should also be screened for one of the above associated conditions.