World Psoriasis Day is on 29 October this year.
Psoriasis is a common, chronic, relapsing inflammatory condition that primarily affects the skin, including the scalp, but may also involve the fingernails, toenails and joints.
The disease is caused by inflammation resulting from overactivity of the immune system. It is characterised by relapses and remissions. Unfortunately, psoriasis is still incurable and this means that once it occurs, it may reoccur for life. This is why education and awareness of the disease is vital for those living with it.
Dr. Mohamed Docrat, a dermatologist who specialises in the disease and runs a psoriasis treatment clinic in Cape Town, says that psoriasis ‘most commonly appears as scaly red spots on the elbows, knees and trunk’. Many often confuse psoriasis with eczema or ringworm and, on the scalp, as a really bad case of dandruff. These types of misconceptions and lack of awareness not only result in people with psoriasis isolating themselves, but also in a lot of unnecessary suffering.
People with psoriasis are also at increased risk of a number of other health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, heart attacks, inflammatory bowel disease and certain types of cancer.
Many people who have psoriasis remain without a proper diagnosis and therefore the exact number of people in South Africa with psoriasis is unknown, but it is estimated that it affects about two percent of people worldwide. Sister Judy Wallace, chairperson of the South African Psoriasis Association, says there is a definite need to improve the quality of life for those living with psoriasis.
Support for people with psoriasis in South Africa is available through the South African Psoriasis Association at www.psoriasis.org.za.