Psoriasis is believed to be a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the rapid buildup of skin cells, which then leads to scaling on the skin’s surface1. It is estimated that 500,000 to 800,000 Malaysians are afflicted with Psoriasis2.
What Is an Autoimmune Disease?
An autoimmune disease occurs when our body’s immune system mistakenly attacks itself3. Typically, our body’s immune system functions as a way to protect it against harmful foreign cells, such as bacteria and viruses3. Whenever the immune system detects foreign cells, it responds by sending out an army of fighter cells to attack and destroy them3.
Hence, under normal circumstances, the immune system is able to tell the difference between foreign cells and the cells that are in our body3. However, when it is an autoimmune disease, your immune system would release proteins called autoantibodies that attack the healthy cells on our body3.
Psoriasis as An Autoimmune Disease
In the case of psoriasis, white blood cells known as T cells mistakenly attack the skin cells1. T cells are a type of fighter cells that are deployed to protect our bodies from foreign cells that invade our bodies.
For psoriasis patients, their T cells would mistakenly attack their skin cells, causing the production process of skin cells to go into an overdrive1. The sped-up process causes skin cells to be developed way too quickly, and are pushed to the skin’s surface, piling up into a thick layer of scaly patches1.
You may think of your T cells as the “soldiers” of the immune system, where they are usually tasked to combat “enemies” like infections. However, these “soldiers” misfire and ended up attacking healthy skin cells.
Besides impacting the patient’s skin, there is also the risk of developing other autoimmune disease such as psoriatic arthritis, as well as other health complications.
How an autoimmune disease affects your joints?
Besides mistakenly attacking the skin cells, some psoriasis patients also find that their condition continues to affect their joints3. This condition is known as psoriatic arthritis where the immune system attacks the joints in their bodies, causing symptoms such as inflammation, stiffness and swollen joints4.
If left untreated, psoriatic arthritis can potentially lead to permanent joint damage and mobility issues4, thus affecting the patient’s quality of life.
Managing Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis1. Therefore, patients would have to manage their conditions with appropriate treatments and leading a healthy lifestyle1.
For patients who have mild-to-moderate symptoms, topical treatments such as creams and ointments may help you manage the condition1. However, for patients with moderate-to-severe conditions, treatment options like biologics could potentially help1.
However, patients are recommended to consult a dermatologist or rheumatologist regarding their condition, as a dermatologist would be able to advise them on the most suitable treatment option.
- Everything You Need to Know About Psoriasis. Healthline. (2020). Retrieved 12 October 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/psoriasis.
- Persatuan Dermatologi Malaysia (PDM). Dermatology.org.my. (2020). Retrieved 12 October 2020, from https://www.dermatology.org.my/psoriasis_association.php.
- Autoimmune Diseases: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & More. Healthline. (2020). Retrieved 12 October 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/autoimmune-disorders.
- Psoriatic Arthritis: Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and More. Healthline. (2020). Retrieved 12 October 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/psoriatic-arthritis.