Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Want to Increase Psoriasis Risk? Let's Have Some Beer

Women who are fond of drinking at least 30 grams (two drinks) of beer per week are likely to increase the risk of developing psoriasis according to a study presented during the annual Society for Investigative Dermatology meeting.

Consumption of red wine, white wine, and other forms of spirits were also included in the study for comparison. It was, however, the consumption of at least two drinks of beer every week which showed significant indication of higher psoriasis risk. It is believed that gluten, an active ingredient of beer, seems to be the trigger in the women who developed psoriasis.

Gluten — What Is It?
Do you ever wonder what holds the pasta and baked goods made from wheat, rye and barley together? Yep, the answer is gluten. Gluten provides the elasticity to the bread dough, which then helps the dough to rise when you mix it with yeast. The function of gluten is akin to glue; in fact, their Latin root is the same.

Majority of processed foods we have in the market contain gluten. And beer is not an exemption to these foods. While it is not common to see labels of packaged foods mentioning any gluten content, be aware that there are many disguises for gluten. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, natural flavors and modified food starch are just some of these disguises.

Gluten-Free Diet
In one study, it was found that getting rid of gluten from the diet significantly improved the condition of some psoriatic patients. Do you think you can live with a gluten-free diet? Sure, it would be a sacrifice to follow a gluten-free diet especially when we consider the available foods we have here in the Philippines. And how about eliminating beer? Hmmm… The mere thought of quitting beer has already given me stress.

Photo credit: ooOJasonOoo (flickr.com)

Ahern, S. (2009). Gluten-Free Girl. (New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Stressed Out? Be Ready for Psoriasis Flare-Ups

Do you still remember the time when you first noticed that you had psoriasis flare-ups? Were you not living stressful days at that time? While there is still some controversy about the role that the stress of daily living contributes to the flare-up of psoriasis, most, if not all, of us (psoriasis patients) agree that whenever a series of stressful events occurs in our lives, or even a single but particularly intense event, we would notice our psoriasis start to flare-up.

A Vicious Cycle
If stress is not the primary trigger, it can surely get psoriasis in a much worse condition. There can be a vicious cycle when we have a flare-up. The mere fact that we have the condition can be the cause of our stress. Because we worry about our condition, it aggravates the flare-up, which again causes another bout of stress. If we do not do anything about it, the cycle keeps on repeating over and over again. To stop this vicious cycle, effective psoriasis treatment is very important.

Reducing the Levels of Stress
There are many ways of reducing the levels of stress. What applies to me may not necessarily be applicable in your situation, but we can surely find a common ground. Some of the strategies that are generally applicable to psoriasis patients include:

Rest. No matter how busy we are in our daily lives, it is of utmost importance that we find time to rest to keep psoriasis under control. Rest may be in the form of having sufficient sleep, or asking someone else to apply those topical creams and ointments to our skin.

Engaging in activities that make us feel good. These activities may include playing your favorite sport, having a relaxing massage, doing a sunbath, attending yoga and meditation classes, and sharing your experiences with a support group, such as the Psoriasis Philippines Online Support Group.

These are just some ways that help minimize the levels of stress. You may want to share what works on you, too.

Photo credit: kortini (flickr.com)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Welcome Morning Sun! Take My Psoriasis Away

The next time you are under the morning sun, take the opportunity to expose the part of your body which is affected with psoriasis. While you may find it embarrassing, keep in mind that sunshine has long been known to help improve psoriasis. You may even find that regular exposure to mild sunlight is better than following a systemic immunosuppressive drug regimen.

The UVB Factor
There are three components of natural sunlight: visible light, ultraviolet A (UVA), and ultraviolet B (UVB). If once in a while you get sunburn after a few hours of sun exposure, it is actually UVB which is causing that. And it is the same UVB which is very beneficial to us, psoriatic patients.

Doctors usually prescribe narrow-band UVB treatment, especially in the West where natural sunlight is not all-year round. It can be an effective treatment, albeit temporary. Others may have a longer period of remission, some may not. To prolong the remission, doctors recommend that you undergo UVB treatment regularly. If you can afford it, you may want to own a home UVB apparatus to avoid the hassles of going to the doctor over and over again.

The Cheap Alternative
But if you live in a country where the sun shines almost every day, then welcome the morning sun with a smile. Mild sunlight, usually between 7am to 9am, is the cheapest psoriasis treatment. Whenever I have a flare-up I usually expose my affected skin to the morning sun for about 10 to 30 minutes a day, and it would greatly improve my psoriasis. If you intend to follow this regimen, it is highly recommended that you consult a healthcare professional first. While sunlight has beneficial effects, it may not necessarily be applicable in your case.

Photo credit: kiri :D (flickr.com)

Habermann, T. (2006). Mayo Clinic Internal Medicine Board Review. (Boca Raton: CRC Press).

Rees, A. (1997). Consumer Health USA. (Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group).

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Watch Your Weight, Minimize the Risk of Psoriatic Arthritis

If your age ranges from 35 to 50, then you may want to watch out for any onset of psoriatic arthritis. The risk of developing this type of arthritis becomes higher as your weight increases, according to the study conducted by the Utah Psoriasis Initiative (UPI). Psoriatic arthritis is sometimes mistaken to be the same as rheumatoid arthritis. In rheumatoid arthritis, however, there are nodules which could not be found in psoriatic arthritis.

The UPI data implies that obesity comes after the onset of psoriasis. This implication may controvert other studies which indicate that obesity is secondary only to psoriasis. While these studies seem contradictory, what is important to us (psoriasis sufferers) is the findings that obesity can be a risk factor in developing psoriatic arthritis.

To keep an eye on your weight, calculate your body mass index (BMI). This BMI calculator helps you do the chore. If your BMI is over 24.9, then it is time to lose weight. Maintaining a normal weight is not only helpful in avoiding the odds of developing psoriatic arthritis, it also lessens our likelihood of developing diabetes and hypertension.

You may want to check this video about 14-year-old Jacob talking about what it's like living with psoriatic arthritis.

Photo credit: cutup (flickr.com)

West, S. (2002). Rheumatology Secrets. (New York: Elsevier Health Sciences).

Friday, May 8, 2009

Have Psoriasis? Monitor Blood Glucose, Pressure

If you think that psoriasis is only a skin disorder, then you may have to think again. Dermatologists may not tell you that the condition is more than skin deep, as what happened in my case, keep in mind that you are missing a very important piece of information. Numerous studies have already been conducted pointing to psoriasis as an autoimmune disease which is linked to many other health conditions.

The latest study conducted by researchers from Harvard Medical School found that women sufferers have higher probability of developing type 2 diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure). This is not the first time that psoriasis has been linked to diabetes and hypertension, however. While the cause as to why psoriasis patients have higher chances of developing diabetes has not been definitively known, what is clear is that having psoriasis makes us more vulnerable to developing diabetes than women who are not suffering from this chronic disease.

While this study is very interesting on our part, it should not cause any panic. For as long as you are living a healthy lifestyle, your chances of acquiring diabetes and hypertension are low. Many women with psoriasis did not develop these conditions at the time the study was conducted. All the women included in the study were also white, hence, it is not clear whether the findings would be applicable to other races, such as Asians.

Nonetheless, it pays to be on top of the situation. Go and have your blood glucose level and blood pressure checked by your doctor as soon as possible. I had mine checked already.

Photo credit: robertdx (flickr.com)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Be Glad You Were Born Today

While you may be one of the 2% of the world population, or one of the 800,000 Filipinos (according to the latest estimate of the Department of Health from this news video) who have psoriasis, be happy that you were not born during biblical times.

According to medical experts, the Hebrew term zaraath which can be found in the Old Testament, particularly Leviticus 13, is so broad that it may not only refer to leprosy (Hansen's disease) but also to other skin disorders including psoriasis. As you may have known, if you were found to be suffering from leprosy during olden times, you would be considered as an unclean person. The consequence would be costly: officials could either declare you as a dead person, or burn you at the stake.

Psoriasis is from the Greek word "psora" which means itch. (Very itchy, indeed!) While Hippocrates (460-377 BC) applied the the term psora to scaly facial and genital eruptions, psoriasis, as it is known today, was believed to be first used by Aurelius Cornelius Celsus (25 BCE-45 CE). However, it took centuries before an Englishman, Robert Willan (1757-1813) described psoriasis accurately. The complete clinical separation between psoriasis and leprosy was done by Hebra and Kaposi in 1876.

Although advances in medical science have been seen during the twentieth century, many of us (psoriasis sufferers) are still feeling the embarrassment brought about by the disease. If we compare ourselves with those of the patients during ancient times, isn't it a comfort to know that we belong to this generation?

Photo credit: Eleventh Earl of Mar (flickr.com)

Bos, J. (2004). Skin Immune System. (London: Informa Healthcare).

Roenigk, H. and Maibach, H. (1998). Psoriasis. (London:Informa Healthcare).

van de Kerkhof, P. (2003). Textbook of Psoriasis. (New Jersey:Wiley-Blackwell).

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Diagnosis Day

I was diagnosed with psoriasis in the third quarter of 2001. When I looked at my face on the mirror then, I noticed a red patch on my forehead. I initially thought that the redness would eventually go away. But as days and weeks went by, I noticed that the red patch became bigger and I knew then that it was something I had to consult with a dermatologist.

Upon arriving at the dermatologist's clinic, the doctor's assistant asked me about my problem. I showed her (the assistant) the red patch on my forehead. She did not hesitate to tell me that it was psoriasis. It was the first time I had heard of that disease.

When I went inside the clinic, the dermatologist took a long time to say categorically that I had a psoriasis indeed. When I told her that her assistant mentioned about the disease, she was a bit hesitant to tell me that I would be living with psoriasis for the rest of my life.

I was clueless about psoriasis the first time I went to the dermatologist. But upon leaving the doctor's clinic, I hurriedly surfed the net to find out more about this disease. With the use of the "psoriasis" as a keyword, I was able to find the website of the National Psoriasis Foundation.

From that moment onwards, I began to understand this commonly misunderstood condition in the Philippines. And it has not been a smooth journey since then.

Here's a video explaining psoriasis:

Photo credit: a.drian (flickr.com)