Thursday, August 02, 2007

Psoriasis Awareness Month

August is 'Psoraisis Awareness Month' as designated by the NPF (National Psoriasis Foundation) In case you didn't know, I have psoriasis. I guess it seems obvious to me, but somehow friends I've had for several years just first notice it on some random day.

It's always surprising to me to see how many people don't know what psoriasis is or sometimes have never even heard of it. And the most people know is the word conjures thoughts of some sort of skin condition.
So I ask you, reader, in celebration of Psoriasis Awareness month, to just educate yourself as to what psoriasis is, even if it's just reading the rest of this post. Even better, tell somebody else what it is.
HERE is a good FAQ (with links to even more information)
Psoriasis is a auto-immune disorder. The molecular mechanisms are still poorly understood. But it appears that immune cells are inappropriately activated and releasing cytokines, etc, resulting in the over-proliferation of otherwise normal skin cells. Which results in a plaque or lesion on the surface of the skin. Skin cells mature and proliferate about 5-10 times faster then normal, so they build up on the skin. In addition, the immune response causes increased blood flow and blood vessel development in the area, resulting in a redder color of the lesion.

Psoriasis is not contagious (duh)

Nearly 2% (7.5 million!) of Americans are thought to have psoriasis of some form. You know other people with psoriasis, even if you don't know it.

There is a huge variation in the severity and types of psoriasis individuals have. And it can vary day to day, month to month, and year to year a lot in one individual.

There is no 'cure' for psoriasis, and no treatment works the same for everyone, or even most.

Nobody with psoriasis wants to have it, and is probably doing all they know they can to treat it.

Most treatments target cell proliferation (and in fact there is a little overlap with some cancer treatments i.e. methotrexate) or, more recently, the immune system and specific cytokines/receptors.

The best treatment I ever had was simply UV light in a big booth 2 times a week in combination with a drug that sensitized the skin to the light. This literally cleared my psoriasis 100% at a time when it was the worst of my life. Unfortunately, the clearing is not permanent, and doctors are reluctant to continue UV-light treatment very long due to skin cancer risks.
Even sunlight has a clear positive affect on psoriasis for me.

For most people (I assume), more than any physical discomfort, the worst affects of psoriasis are psychological.

End of lesson.

As I get older I've realized that rather than deflect or lie in response to people's questions about my skin ('What happened to your legs?!')('Man, you really got eaten by bugs this weekend'), I feel better by taking a bit of time and telling them it is psoriasis and explaining it a bit. What's weird is when people I've known for 3 years say these things. Like, did you not ever see this before?

After just 4 days of Australian sun and saltwater I'm seeing an effect on my skin. Yet another reason to move to Melbourne.


Amy said...

Alex, I didn't notice. Does that make me a bad person?

Colby said...

Do not move to Melbourne. DO NOT. I will not visit you even harder in Australia. Move to Mel-Unitedfuckingstatesofamerica.