New Studies Could Lead to Better Treatments for Psoriasis
Do you suffer from the pain, itch and inflammation of psoriasis? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Up to seven million people in the U.S. have psoriasis – that’s a lot of people! While there are treatment options available, not all of those options are effective at relieving symptoms and outbreaks. However, recent research may result in the creation of new, more effective psoriasis treatments. Let’s take a look at this recent discovery . . .
Do you suffer from the pain, itch and inflammation of psoriasis? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Up to seven million people in the U.S. have psoriasis. That's approximately 2.6% of the population – and that’s a lot of people!
Unfortunately, there isn't a cure for psoriasis at this time. And while there are treatment options available, not all of those options are effective at relieving symptoms and outbreaks.
That might soon be about to change.
A study performed by Anne Bowcock, PhD, genetics professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found that there are seven genetic variations linked to psoriasis. What does this mean? Well, more research needs to be conducted, but if these genetic variations are confirmed in other studies the gene variants could contribute to the discovery of new, more effective psoriasis treatments.
But before we get too carried away with these findings, let’s take a quick refresher course in what psoriasis is and its symptoms.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a disease that affects the skin and joints. It will usually cause red, scaly patches on the skin. The scaly patches that are caused by the psoriasis (called plaques) are areas of inflammation and excessive skin production. Skin quickly accumulates at these sites and starts to have a silvery-white appearance.
Psoriasis is usually found on the skin of the elbows and knees, but it can affect any area of the body, including the scalp and genitals. The fingernails and toenails seem to be affected quite often. It can also cause inflammation of the joints, which is called psoriatic arthritis.
This disorder varies in severity and will recur over and over again. It is not contagious.
What causes psoriasis?
The cause is not yet known; however, it is believed to have a genetic component. There are several factors that can trigger psoriasis including stress, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking.
"Common diseases like psoriasis are incredibly complex at the genetic level," Bowcock says in a recent news release. "Our research shows that small but common DNA differences are important in the development of psoriasis. Although each variation makes only a small contribution to the disease, patients usually have a number of different genetic variations that increases their risk of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis."
Bowcock and her team conducted a study where they compared DNA from 223 psoriasis patients (including 91 with psoriatic arthritis) and 519 people without psoriasis. They also included two other large groups of people with and without psoriasis.
Seven genetic variations were identified during these comparisons. They were linked to psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and other variations that were already linked to psoriasis. Four other autoimmune diseases: celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, Grave’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis were just newly discovered in the genetic region.
In the April 4 online edition of Public Library of Science Genetics, Bowcock and her colleagues state that more studies are needed to confirm the findings of the seven genetic variations linked to psoriasis.
And, although more research needs to be done to confirm if these findings are accurate, it is promising to know that if they are correct, new psoriasis drugs can be developed.
At this time, dermatologists must use a trial and error approach for treating psoriasis. The decision to use a specific treatment is based on the type of psoriasis, where it is located, extent and severity. It also depends on the patient’s gender, age and quality of life. Medication with the least potential for adverse reactions is tried first. Then, stronger ones are used if those don’t work. Treatment rotation is important because people will become immune after a period of time.
Hope for the Future
It seems like genetic testing is revealing new information every single day, helping scientists and doctors better understand conditions ranging from psoriasis to cancer. Hopefully these studies will eventually lead to new types of psoriasis medicine that can be more effective and less toxic.