Psoriasis is so much more than skin deep; it’s a condition that affects the whole body. In this blog we look at what having psoriasis means for the overall health of those living with the condition.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition; it’s something that those who develop it are born vulnerable to and have for the rest of their lives. That might sound gloomy, but while psoriasis is a condition that can’t be cured, it can be managed.
Psoriasis involves a malfunction of the immune system, which causes inflammation in the body. While it’s hard to say what actually causes the immune system of psoriasis sufferers not to work properly, it is possible to see what it does to the body. One of the ways that the condition shows up is in the skin, with skin cells being produced at a much faster rate than normal, and causing characteristic scaly plaques that need frequent moisturising and extra care.
But how else does the condition affect people who live with psoriasis? Let’s look at the ways in which an overactive immune system can affect your general health and wellbeing.
Immune system reactions
Because psoriasis is all about an overreaction of the immune system, it’s not surprising that it has an effect on people when they come into contact with the viruses and bacteria that can make us poorly. What’s going on? According to research, “white blood cells called T-helper lymphocytes become overactive, producing excess amounts of cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-2, and interferon-gamma.”
The result of all this overactivity is that people with psoriasis may be more susceptible to getting ill, especially during flu and cold season, although this is likely to be a more significant connection for older people, and people with severe cases of psoriasis.
Immunosuppressant & immuno-modulator drugs
Sometimes it’s not the condition itself, but the treatment that can cause problems with how likely psoriasis sufferers are to get other illnesses. If you’re taking immunosuppressants or immuno-modulator medication to help manage your psoriasis symptoms, they can affect how your body fights off colds and other viruses because they’re designed to calm down an overactive immune system. These medications suppress your body’s defences against viruses as well as against the stimuli that trigger a psoriasis flare.
Because having psoriasis means you may be more likely to be badly affected by winter viruses, it can be helpful to get a flu jab at the start of the season, but this particularly goes for those taking immunosuppressants to manage their symptoms. However, you may need to take a non-live version of the vaccine, so discuss the best way of keeping yourself well in flu season with your doctor.
About 25% of psoriasis patients also have arthritic symptoms - swollen and inflamed joints that can be very painful. This can cause sufferers to feel tired, in pain and struggle to keep active, all of which can make it harder to stay fit and well.
Psoriasis also affects sufferers' mental health. At its worst, the pain and weariness that goes along with psoriasis can be seriously debilitating and distressing, as well as the more obvious effects which can make sufferers feel self-conscious and upset. Do take your mental health seriously, and mention it to your doctor and employer if you need support.
How to help yourself stay well
If you live with psoriasis, it’s important to take good care of yourself, physically and mentally. Remember that you’re likely to be more vulnerable to the colds that go around, and take action to give yourself the best possible chance of keeping fit and well!
- Consider a flu jab in winter
- Get enough rest and take stress levels seriously
- Take supplements (vitamins C & D, and zinc have all shown to be effective in helping the immune system fight off viruses)
- Talk to your doctor about how best to look after your health
Recommended products for skin prone to psoriasis
Balmonds Skin Salvation
with hemp and beeswax
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream
with shea butter and calendula
Balmonds Scalp Oil
with tea tree, nettle, borage & rosemary