World Psoriasis Day 2016 takes place on 29 October and this year’s theme is ‘breaking barriers’. The chronic skin condition affects around 125 million people from all over the world. It is more prevalent in Caucasian skin, and often strikes children and young people, although anyone can develop it. Sufferers often face obstacles in their everyday lives, including at work, when seeking healthcare, or in their social interactions. World Psoriasis Day aims to break down these barriers and raise awareness of this painful and often misunderstood condition.
Many of the difficulties faced by psoriasis patients stem from others’ mistaken beliefs that they may be infectious. Although psoriasis is not contagious, some people do not understand this and those with the condition often find that they are treated differently or even avoided. Psoriasis can often be genetic, and symptoms can be triggered by environmental factors or irritants. It is caused by the immune system which, when overactive, stimulates cell growth too quickly. The cells then start to pile on top of each other and this build-up causes various skin problems. Psoriasis is often known to flare up at certain times and then improve at others, or in some cases, even disappear. There is currently no cure for the condition, although treatments can help alleviate its effects.
Global healthcare company Novartis recently helped to organise a worldwide survey of over 8,000 psoriasis sufferers and commissioned an artist to interpret the results using body paint and skin as her canvas. Click here to see the images produced.
Participants of the survey reported coming up against barriers like the ones that World Psoriasis Day aims to break down. Over half – 54% – reported that their professional lives had been affected by their condition, while 43% felt that it had an effect on their relationships. A shocking 84% reported that they had experienced ‘discrimination or humiliation’ because of their psoriasis. These results show how wide-ranging the effects of this condition are, and how many of the myths surrounding it need to be dispelled.
Elise Bevan, a solicitor in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, said: “Another myth about psoriasis is that it only affects the appearance and so is not considered to be serious. However, psoriasis is not merely skin-deep. The inflammation caused by the condition creates lesions which can crack and bleed. The skin can also shed, rather like scales, which is extremely painful and can significantly impact upon patients’ daily lives.
“This issue has received media coverage recently after young mother Chloe Lynam shared photographs of her pregnancy-induced psoriasis, which was so severe by the time her baby was born that the skin on over half of her body was affected and she was unable to cuddle her son or change his nappy. Other sufferers find that they are unable to walk because of cracked skin on their feet or, if their hands are affected, they cannot perform even simple tasks such as opening jars. Psoriasis arthritis, which presents as inflammation of the joints, is linked to psoriasis and is also very painful. Therefore, it is important that sufferers seek early medical intervention and treating doctors take the condition seriously.”