Psoriasis is not contagious.
Melinda, 26, is a call-center agent. She began developing rashes, which turned to patches of red skin on her arms after a year of working in night shift. Her boyfriend couldn't handle the changes in her skin, and fearing that she might be contagious, the guy left her.
It wasn't until she consulted a dermatologist that she understood why she was having itchy, scaly and red skin, and why her skin is hyperactively changing-it is psoriasis.
'Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory and genetic skin disease, that is characterized by thickened, red, itchy skin because the skin replication goes beyond the normal,' said Dr. Deanna Ramiscal, dermatologist in an interview on 'Radyo Klinika' at dwIZ 882 KHZ AM.
In fact, psoriasis patients' skin changes in three days, while people who don't have this, change skin in 30 days. This is why scaling happens to psoriasis patients.
'Typically, lesions occur on the scalp, elbows and knees. It involves also the body folds, even the genital area. But, they are not limited to these areas. Areas that are prone to trauma can be also involved in the break out of psoriasis,' according to Ramiscal.
Until now, doctors can't pinpoint the cause of psoriasis although genetics (family members who had psoriasis), environmental factors and a weak immune system are being linked to the inflammatory disease.
Other triggers are the following: stress, trauma to skin (wounds or bug bites or even sun burn), infection such as sore throat and some medicines like anti-malaria medicine, some hypertension and anti-depression medicines, lithium, indomethacin and quinidine.
Smoking and alcoholic drinks can also trigger the flare out.
Psoriasis affects 2 to 3 percent of the population, and in the Philippines, there are about 1 million to 2 million people who have psoriasis. Twenty to 30 percent of them have moderate to severe psoriasis, according to Ramiscal.
What makes psoriasis worse is if it starts to affect the other organs of the patient such as the heart, pancreas and liver.
'If you have severe psoriasis, your life expectancy is reduced from four to five years,' said Ramiscal.
Among the health conditions, which a psoriatic patient could be suffering from along with the skin disease are the following: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, Crohn's Disease, ulcerative colitis and depression.
'Most patients with psoriasis are most likely to develop psychological disorder, especially depression and anxiety. Psoriasis has a significant effect on the quality of life of the patient. Psoriasis has a negative effect on the self-image of the patient and their emotions. This is due to overt rejection from their families and peers. It affects their social relationship when they withdraw themselves from the community,' Ramiscal explined.
Topical therapy and phototherapy are not enough to help psoriasis patients. There are oral medications, which the psoriasis patient can take, but sometimes these drugs have side effects. They just don't go to the skin, but affect the liver, kidney and even the bone marrow, and can affect the immune system.
Fortunately, according to Ramiscal, there's a new class of drugs that offer hope. 'They are called biologics because they are synthesized by living cells. These medications are injected to the skin and to the veins. A lot of psoriasis patients who have received biologics have reported a better quality of life. The only drawback for biologics is the cost. They are extremely expensive.'
How do they work? 'Biologics are also called targeted therapies. They are very specific in their action, very precise. The safety profile of these medications are better compared to the conventional medicines which can damage the organs of the body. Patients who undergo targeted therapy report better condition after the treatment,' Ramiscal said.
But more important, psoriasis patients should not be treated differently from people with normal skin. 'You can't catch psoriasis from someone who's suffering from the condition. It's ok to hug them, share towels with them, and to eat and sleep with them. Never abandon a psoriasis patient,' ended Ramiscal.
Radyo Klinika airs Tuesday to Friday 7 to 8 p.m. on DWIZ 882 KHZ AM. It is a KBP Golden Dove awardee for Best Radio Magazine Program (2016). Its host, Marou Pahati-Sarne, is a two-time KBP Golden Dove Awardee for Best Radio Magazine Program Host (2016 and 2017)