When angry red splotches of scaly skin swept over Kim Kardashian’s legs on this week’s episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” the 30 year-old headed straight to the dermatologist’s office in a panic.
After all, there was a rapidly approaching photo shoot, and sister Khloe’s insistence that the rash looked like ringworm was not helping the situation.
At the dermatologist’s office, Kardashian was diagnosed with psoriasis, a disease triggered when the immune system falsely sends out signals to rapidly increase skin cell growth rates. This results in the thickened, red-and-white patches that doctors refer to as “plaque,” and which typifies the most common strain of the skin condition. Although psoriasis typically affects the elbows, knees and scalp, the distinctive and often itchy rash can show up anywhere on the body.
Experts still don’t know exactly what signals the immune reaction, although factors like anxiety, smoking and medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure appear to increase the diagnosis chance.
Genetics can also play a prime factor, with the disease diagnosis often clustering closely in families. In fact, Kris Jenner soothed daughter Kim’s distress by sharing that she has had and handled psoriasis ever since the same age of 30.
After the Kardashian episode aired, The National Psoriasis Foundation quickly issued a statement about the star’s diagnosis, which affects some 7.5 million other Americans, and which the organization emphasized is neither an infectious nor contagious condition.
And according to New York dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., psoriasis is treatable, and doesn’t need to threaten an image-focused career or fulfilling and healthy lifestyle.
Today’s treatment options vary from topical steroid and Vitamin D creams to injections, and are best assessed by a board-certified dermatologist who can customize a prescription plan to fit the patient’s lifestyle and preferences.
“Phototherapy is also used, as most patients’ psoriasis improves in the sunlight,” says Zeichner, adding that the treatment is of strictly regulated medical grade, and should not be confused with the potentially cancer-causing rays emitted in tanning booths. For severe cases, a new class of injectable medications known as “Biologic Agents” has shown dramatic success in lowering the inflammatory process that causes psoriasis, says Zeichner.
WATCH VIDEO: A Review of Psoriasis
Kardashian is not the only familiar face who has been diagnosed with psoriasis. Stars like country singer LeAnn Rimes and “America’s Next Top Model” winner CariDee English have publicly spoken about forging successful performance careers while living with the chronic condition, as has host Stacy London of “What Not To Wear.”
All four stars have mentioned a common culprit that often triggers psoriasis breakouts, and is a natural aspect of busy, overbooked lifestyles: stress. In addition to the medical therapies listed above, many patients cite success with treatment plans that include such soul-soothing practices as meditation and yoga.
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