Each August, the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) sponsors Psoriasis Awareness Month, dedicated to raising awareness, educating the public and dispelling myths about the disease.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic, noncontagious, genetic autoimmune disease that appears on the skin in red, scaly patches that itch, crack and bleed. It is the most common autoimmune disease in the country, affecting approximately 7.5 million Americans.
Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, an inflammatory type of arthritis that causes pain and swelling of the joints and tendons. People with mild psoriasis are just as likely to develop psoriatic arthritis as those with moderate to severe psoriasis.
What causes psoriasis?
Genetics and the immune system play a major role in the disease. In people with psoriasis, the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth of skin cells.
To develop psoriasis, a person must have a combination of the genes that cause psoriasis and be exposed to external “triggers.” Triggers include stress; injury to the skin, such as a tattoo or a scrape; smoking; and certain infections.
There is no cure for psoriasis, but many treatment options are available. Treatment is individualized for each person and depends on the severity of the disease, the type of psoriasis and how the person reacts to certain treatments.
Psoriasis takes an emotional, physical toll
Despite its prevalence, psoriasis is widely misunderstood. People with psoriasis often face discrimination because others incorrectly fear it is contagious. Studies show that people with psoriasis report higher levels of anxiety, embarrassment and depression. In a National Psoriasis Foundation study, more than half the respondents said psoriasis impacts with their ability to enjoy life.
In addition to the psychological and social impact of psoriasis, psoriasis increases risk for other serious health conditions. These include heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, hypertension, obesity and depression.
National Psoriasis Foundation Medical Board urges people with psoriasis to work with their doctors to watch for the potential onset of any health issues related to psoriasis.
Learn more about psoriasis, its associated health risks, treatment options and ways to effectively manage the disease at http://www.psoriasis.org/.
Get involved for Psoriasis Awareness Month
If you have psoriasis or love someone who does, show us your life with psoriasis—with its challenges, breakthroughs, frustrations and achievements—by submitting a photo to our Life with Psoriasis Photo Contest for Psoriasis Awareness Month. To participate, visit: http://www.psoriasisawarenessmonth.org/.
Research to find a cure
National Psoriasis Foundation has grown to be the world’s largest nonprofit patient advocacy organization serving people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and the largest charitable funder of psoriatic disease research worldwide. Finding a cure for psoriatic diseases is the Foundation’s highest priority. In 2012, the Psoriasis Foundation awarded more than $2 million in research grants and medical research fellowships to scientists studying psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis—the most dollars and grants in the organization’s history.
In addition to its grant program, the Psoriasis Foundation hosts the National Psoriasis Victor Henschel BioBank, the world’s largest collection of psoriasis DNA used by scientists for genetic research into psoriatic diseases.
Learn more about the NPF and its investment in cutting-edge research at www.psoriasis.org/research.
Randy Beranek is the president and CEO of the National Psoriasis Foundation.