Even celebrities struggle with the confusion, pain and delayed diagnoses that come with an autoimmune condition – reality TV powerhouse Kim Kardashian has revealed her own struggle with skin condition psoriasis. Let’s take a look at her journey, plus a few of the signs and symptoms of the disease.
The 43-year-old world-famous reality TV star and business tycoon recently shared her personal struggles with autoimmune conditions, including psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. In a post on Poosh, Kim opened up about the challenges she's faced, the remedies that have worked for her, and how she's adjusted her life since being diagnosed with these conditions.
"I really had no idea what my life would be like dealing with an autoimmune disease myself, even though I always grew up with my mom having psoriasis," Kim reflects. Her mother's battle with psoriasis offered a glimpse into what was to come in her own journey.
Photo Credit: @kimkardashian
Kim's own journey with psoriasis started at the age of 25 when she experienced her first flare-up. It was triggered by a common cold, and as Kim explains, "It was all over my stomach and legs." Fortunately, Kim's neighbour, a dermatologist, offered a solution. "He said to come into the office, and he would give me a shot of cortisone, and then hopefully it would go away," she recalls. It did, marking her first experience with managing psoriasis – but like many sufferers, Kim found herself flaring up again in her 30s.
“It seemed like it came out of nowhere, but I thought that my skin was just sensitive toward the dress's material," Kim shares.
For the past eight years, Kim says she’s managed her psoriasis without medication. She reflects, "I can always count on my main spot on my right lower leg, which consistently stays flared up. I have learned to live with this spot without using any creams or medication—I just deal."
Kim's journey took a new turn when she experienced debilitating hand pain. "I felt it in my bones," she recalls. The diagnosis initially seemed dire, as her blood tests came back positive for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. "I was beyond scared," Kim says. However, it turned out to be psoriatic arthritis, a condition with similarities to arthritis that can accompany psoriasis.
"No matter what autoimmune condition I had, I was going to get through it, and they are all manageable with proper care." Her openness about her journey underscores the importance of raising awareness about autoimmune conditions and offering support to those living with them.
So, What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin condition that causes the rapid buildup of skin cells. Normally, skin cells grow deep within the skin and rise to the surface over the course of a few weeks. In psoriasis, this process is significantly accelerated, leading to the accumulation of skin cells on the surface. These excess skin cells form thick, silvery scales and red patches that are often itchy, painful, and may crack or bleed. Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body, but it commonly affects areas like the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back. The severity of psoriasis varies from mild, with only a few small patches, to severe, with large areas of skin affected. It’s a chronic condition, meaning it can persist for a long time or even throughout a person's life, and while there is no cure, various treatments can help manage the symptoms and control flare-ups. These treatments may include topical creams, phototherapy (light therapy), oral medications, and biologic drugs that target specific components of the immune system. Take a look at the 7 types of psoriasis:
- Plaque Psoriasis: Plaque psoriasis is the most common form, accounting for about 80-90% of all psoriasis cases. It appears as raised, red patches covered with thick, silvery-white scales. These patches can be itchy, painful, and may crack or bleed.
- Guttate Psoriasis: Guttate psoriasis often develops in childhood or early adulthood and is characterised by small, drop-like lesions on the skin. These lesions are typically red or pink and may be widespread across the body.
- Inverse Psoriasis: Inverse psoriasis affects areas where skin touches skin, such as the armpits, groin, and under the breasts. It appears as smooth, red, inflamed patches and is more common in individuals who are overweight.
- Pustular Psoriasis: Pustular psoriasis is characterised by small, pus-filled blisters surrounded by red skin. The blisters can be painful and may occur on localised areas or across the body.
- Erythrodermic Psoriasis: This is a severe and rare form of psoriasis that can cover the entire body with a red, peeling rash. Erythrodermic psoriasis can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.
- Scalp Psoriasis: Scalp psoriasis affects the scalp and may extend to the forehead, back of the neck, and behind the ears. It can cause red, scaly patches and may lead to flaking and itching.
- Nail Psoriasis: Nail psoriasis affects the fingernails and toenails, causing changes in the appearance of the nails, such as pitting, discolouration, thickening, and separation from the nail bed.
The exact cause of psoriasis is not fully understood, but researchers believe that it is a complex interplay of genetic, immune system, and environmental factors. Several theories have been proposed as potential contributors:
Genetic Predisposition: Psoriasis has a strong genetic component, and a family history of the condition increases the risk of developing it. Specific genetic variations have been linked to an increased susceptibility to psoriasis.
Immune System Dysfunction: Psoriasis is considered an autoimmune disease, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells, leading to inflammation and rapid cell turnover. T cells, a type of immune cell, are believed to play a significant role in the inflammatory process.
Environmental Triggers: Certain environmental factors can trigger or exacerbate psoriasis in individuals with a genetic predisposition. Triggers may include stress, infections, injuries to the skin, smoking and certain medications.
Immune Response to Skin Microbes: Some researchers propose that psoriasis may be triggered by an abnormal immune response to skin microbes, such as bacteria or fungi.
Epigenetics: Epigenetic changes, which are alterations in gene expression without changes in the DNA sequence, may also contribute to the development of psoriasis in susceptible people.
Stress: Stress and mental health factors, such as anxiety and depression, can worsen psoriasis symptoms. They may not be the root cause, but they can trigger or exacerbate flare-ups.
Lifestyle Factors: Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and poor diet, may also play a role in the development and severity of psoriasis. Excess sugar consumption has also been linked to the condition as refined sugars and high-glycaemic foods can lead to chronic inflammation in the body. Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition, after all, so anything that promotes inflammation may worsen psoriasis symptoms.
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