by Diane Talbert
I have had psoriasis for 55 years. While taking my treatment very seriously, I sometimes find myself looking for answers to why I have this disease. Instead of blaming myself for having the condition, I decided to research the genes and triggers that cause psoriasis and found what professionals believe to be linked with this disease.
“Researchers think something sets off your immune system” when you have psoriasis, according to WebMD. The National Psoriasis Foundation agrees that the exact causes are a combination of genetics and triggers. What could be setting off the immune systems of psoriasis champions such as myself? Let’s see if we can crack the code.
WHAT DOES GENETICS HAVE TO DO WITH PSORIASIS?
You don’t have to be a scientist to know that we’re made of cells and each cell has individual properties that make us who we are. For example, your hair color and eye color are based on your genes. But genetics doesn’t just make us look a certain way.
Genes control functions like those in our immune systems. For psoriasis patients, genes make the cells in our skin reproduce too way too quickly. Our skin cells grow five times faster than people with normal cells. With normal skin, the cells fall off, but with psoriasis the cells build up making very thick patches.
Around ten out of a hundred people have genes that make them more likely to get psoriasis, but only two or three of those actually develop it. This means that all the psoriasis champions reading my blog have a gene that is linked to the disease. But what about that 7 percent of the population with the psoriasis gene who don’t show any symptoms of the disease? That’s where triggers come in.
WHAT ARE TRIGGERS OF PSORIASIS?
What differs between the ten percent of the population with the gene for psoriasis and the two to three percent of those people who develop it are the triggers in the person’s environment. I believe this is why I got psoriasis. I was only five, but didn’t grow up in the healthiest environments.
Medical related triggers:
- Skin injuries (e.g. scratches, bites, cuts)
- infections (e.g. strep throat, thrush, upper respiratory infections)
- The early stages of HIV
- Certain medications (e.g. beta-blockers, steroids, anti-malaria)
- Hormonal changes during puberty and menopause
- Smoking (twice as likely to develop psoriasis)
- Alcohol (makes psoriasis harder to treat)
- Cold or dry weather
- Excess sun exposure
NOW THAT WE KNOW GENES AND TRIGGERS
If you are a psoriasis champion like me or know someone who is one, then genetics is likely a cause. However, finding a trigger for your psoriasis could potentially yield some positive results. Work with your doctor to keep track of when you get flare-ups. Keep a diary. Be aware of what you are eating, what meds or supplements you take, and see your doctor regularly. You might be able to reduce the frequency or intensity of your flare ups.
Scientists have found about 25 genes that are different in people with psoriasis. They think it takes more than one to cause the disease, and they’re looking for the main ones.
You can’t change your genes and who you are, but however, you may have control over the triggers that cause the psoriasis genes to flare up. Yet, sometimes that trigger is something you can’t change, and sometimes the gene is too sensitive to find out exactly what the trigger is. Still, working on finding what triggers your psoriasis is something that could change your life forever.
Diane Talbert is a blogger, patient advocate and speaker for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. She has been an advocate for this disease for over a decade now. Diane has run support groups in the Maryland, DC and Virginia area, is a volunteer for several organizations and vows to help find a cure for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and stop the stigma associated with it. She loves being a wife, mother and grandmother.