By Dr. Kaycee Reyes
“Ay, ang daming galis!” “Baka nakakahawa.” Patients of psoriasis have to live with these comments, more often than not, for the rest of their lives.
Red itchy, flaky, and scaly patches on the skin that can be mildly to severely itchy are common characteristics of psoriasis. Contrary to what others know about the disease, it is not infectious and you can’t get it by spending time with someone with the disease.
Psoriasis is a long-term inflammatory disease that can involve nail and joints, in addition to the skin. It affects two percent of the world’s population and can develop in both males and females, regardless of age and race. For patients with moderate and severe psoriasis, there is an increased risk of developing psoriatic arthritis, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, anxiety, and depression. Psoriasis has inherited and environmental components as causes, and can be triggered by stress, infection, alcohol, and smoking.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for psoriasis, but there are several effective treatments available. In the Philippines, an estimated two million Filipinos suffer from this disease. What is difficult about psoriasis is that it affects the patient not only physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and socioeconomically that alters their overall quality of life.
SORRY ABOUT PSORIASIS
A lot of times, psoriasis patients feel sorry for themselves. It is common among psoriasis patients to feel unattractive, and a number of patients have also felt depressed. Some are burdened financially, and some have even limited themselves to work from home. With psoriasis, there is an overproduction of proteins, called cytokines, by the immune system, causing inflammation and the rapid growth of skin cells. The most common form of psoriasis is plaque psoriasis, described above as red, itchy, and scaly skin that usually appears on elbows, knees, lower back, palms, and feet.
Other types of psoriasis are:
– psoriatic arthritis, characterized by joint stiffness and swelling;
– scalp psoriasis, where flaky scalp may bleed when scratched;
– nail psoriasis, where nails may appear a different color;
– guttate psoriasis, where smaller scales appear, triggered by an infection;
– inverse psoriasis, that appears on areas with skin-to-skin contact, such as genitals, armpits, or under the breasts;
– pustular psoriasis, a rare type where pus-filled blisters appear or reappear; and
– erythrodermic psoriasis, an extremely rare type that appears all over the body
To determine the disease, physicians diagnose it based on the appearance and distribution of the plaques. More than the debilitating disease itself, the lack of information, awareness, and assistance about the psoriasis affects patients the most. Often, patients feel isolated from other people who might discriminate them. Some are also afraid to seek treatment.
STOP THE STIGMA
Psoriasis is a lifelong disease that must keep the patient and others aware and well-informed. Remember that psoriasis is not fatal, nor is it contagious. If you think you or your loved one has psoriasis, visit your dermatologist right away to test your skin. Psoriasis can be managed with proper care and treatment. With the help of a holistic management of Rizal Medical Center and its Psoriasis Center, you can start living your life to the fullest.
Treatment options to manage the symptoms of psoriasis vary from patient to patient, from topical medications and tablet to phototherapy and systemic injectables, some of which may have potential severe side effects. Biologics is a relatively new form of treatment that aims to alter the immune system. It is currently given to patients who have very severe psoriasis and who have not responded to standard treatments. Biologics has not been approved in the list of the Philippine National Drug Formulary (PNDF). According to the Department of Health (DOH), PNDF is a part of the Philippine Medicines Policy that “aims to make quality essential drugs available, efficacious, safe, and affordable.”
Rizal Medical Center, however, was able to overcome this, making it the first DOH institution to allow the use of Biologics. This also makes them the first to offer a whole and complete treatment plan for the patient.
Rizal Medical Center is a DOH-trained hospital that recently set up its Department of Dermatology last December 2016. Since then, it has been considered by Department of Health (DOH) as one of regional referral subspecialty Center for Dermatology. It has set up the Psoriasis Center that offers a holistic approach to all patients, developing a multidisciplinary group of doctors who can offer psoriasis-related treatments in Cardiology, Endocrinology, Rheumatology, Rehabilitation Medicine, and Mental Hygiene.