In the November issue of Irish Country Magazine, Deputy Editor Niamh Devereux shines a light on the inflammatory autoimmune condition for our health series The Invisible Struggle
Many of us, if asked, would probably say that psoriasis is a skin condition that results in red scaly or flaky patches on the body. However, the reality of the situation has a lot more far-reaching consequences.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder, when an over-reactive immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign invaders. As a result, it creates a rapid build-up of new skin cells that rush to the surface, leading to inflamed, scaly patches on the skin, which is often accompanied by itching, pain and discomfort. These patches occur on the scalp, elbows or knees, but other parts of the body can be affected also.
The emotional toll it takes on those who live with it is often hidden from the world but leaves a much deeper scar than any left on the skin’s surface. Dr. Alia Ahmed, a consultant dermatologist specialising in the psychological effects of chronic skin disease, explained:
“With psoriasis, it is a little bit of a vicious circle,” she says. “People with psoriasis are more likely to develop anxiety and depression. But, if you have psoriasis, you’re likely to already have had pre-existing anxiety and depression, and we’re not sure which comes about first. Either way, the symptoms are kicking off the stress axis, which is very pro-inflammatory and is driving the psoriasis.”
What even less of us may be aware of is that psoriasis is also linked to arthritis.
One out of every three people with psoriasis will develop an associated form of arthritis, called Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA). People with PsA can experience painful inflammation of the joints, tendons and sometimes the spine. At the moment, there is no way to predict which patients with psoriasis are likely to go on to develop psoriatic arthritis.
In a bid to find out more about this connection, Professor Laura Coates, at the University of Oxford alongside Professor Oliver FitzGerald and Professor Stephen Pennington from University College Dublin, are leading a research project on unmet clinical needs in psoriatic arthritis (PsA), called HIPPOCRATES.
As part of the project, the teams at University of Oxford and University College Dublin, are studying the different factors that could lead to the development of PsA in people with skin psoriasis, with the goal of developing strategies to prevent PsA from occurring.
Currently, both teams at University College Dublin and University of Oxford are recruiting volunteers for the HIPPOCRATES Prospective Observational Study (HPOS) – a fully online study – which monitors people with psoriasis over a three-year period to see who develops PsA. For further information regarding the study click here.
For more information on psoriasis, pick up the November issue of Irish Country Magazine. #TheInvisibleStruggle