Psoriasis sufferers, lace up your sneakers

3/5/2014

Many psoriasis sufferers avoid exercise to avoid an outbreak of red scaly patches and lesions. However, new research suggests that a good workout may actually promote healthy skin. The study found that vigorous exercise can reduce the risk of developing the chronic inflammation.

Equally as prevalent in men as in women, Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston MA researchers collected data on nearly 867,000 women. Among these women, 1,026 had psoriasis. The study found that when the women engaged in physical activity at least three hours per week, they experienced a reduction in skin inflammation.

According to the World Psoriasis Day consortium, 125 million people worldwide have psoriasis, with 7.5 million of those being Americans. Although progress is being made, there is still no singular cause or trigger for psoriasis. The Center for Disease Control has identified factors that may increase risk of a psoriasis diagnosis:

  • Lifestyle: Overweight individuals are more likely to have severe symptoms
  • Family history: About 35 percent of those with psoriasis have relatives with the illness
  • Climate: Psoriasis develops more frequently in colder climates
  • Age: 15-years-old and 25-years-old is the most common age to develop the disorder
The cause of the non-contagious disease remains a mystery. Scientists believe psoriasis is triggered by an abnormal immune system response that causes the rapid development of skin cells. While triggers differ for each patient, scientists identified the following as known psoriasis triggers:
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Skin injury (vaccinations, sunburns and scratches)
  • Medications (Lithim, Antimalarials, Inderal, Quinidine, and Indomethacin)
  • Diet
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
There are several types of psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis impacts about 80 percent of those affected with the disease. It is distinguished by raised, inflamed, red lesions covered by a silvery white scale. This mild form of psoriasis is often found on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back.

The most severe form of psoriasis is called erythrodermic, which generally covers most of the skin and requires immediate hospitalization. Symptoms include increased heart rate, severe itching, pain and fluctuating body temperature. Patients may also experience excessive protein and fluid loss which can lead to dehydration, heart failure and other severe illnesses.

With no cure to date, there are several hopeful treatments that can help keep symptoms at bay. Besides topical treatments, doctors may prescribe a combination of treatments including phototherapy (light therapy) and/or systemic medications. Phototherapy exposes the skin to ultraviolet light on a regular basis and under medical supervision. Systemic medications are prescription drugs.
“Exercise is a terrific addition to the treatment plan prescribed by your doctor,” says Dr. James Quenan, Chief Medical Officer at Amery Regional Medical Center. “Obesity can lead to chronic inflammation, and increased cardiac risks. Also, the body may create more fat cells in response to increased inflammation, making it even more important to engage in physical activity.”

Individuals who suffer from psoriasis are at greater risk of developing lymphoma, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Researchers found that psoriasis leads to increased T-cell activity since the disease impacts a person's immune system. T-cells are white blood cells in the immune system that ward off infections. Psoriasis can also lead to psoriatic arthritis which can cause permanent joint damage and deformities of the joints, fingers and toes.

“Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are inhibiting, painful diseases,” says Pat Cooper, vice president for clinical operations at Quorum Health Resources (QHR). “Not only does the cost of treatment exceed thousands of dollars, there is also an economic toll. According to Psoriasis.org, last year, approximately 60 percent of psoriasis patients missed an average of 26 days of work due to their illness.”

High-energy workouts such as running, swimming, basketball, football and other aerobic activities are all good options. Consult with your doctor before embarking on an exercise regimen. With treatment and exercise, most psoriasis sufferers are delighted to learn that they can improve the appearance of their skin. Even more important, patients can improve their chances of living a long and healthy life.

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month, sponsored by the nonprofit, the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF). The Walk to Cure Psoriasis and other events throughout the month will encourage funding to cure psoriasis.

To learn more about Psoriasis and Psoriasis Awareness Month, visit the National Psoriasis Foundation’s website at www.psoriasis.org.

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