I’m back! Six days spent in a whirlwind of lectures, jetlag, a WebEx, an interview, more lectures, continued jetlag, a Twitter chat, early mornings and a whole lot of learning! So much so, that I’ve decided to divide my trip into two blog posts. Today is the learnings. Later this week will be the fun stuff!
First up, let me give you some context. I travelled to San Francisco to attend the AAD (American Academy of Dermatology) Annual Meeting, with the Novartis Skin To Live In team and a truly amazing young lady, their Skin Impressions ambassador, Melissa. You know how we often hear that psoriasis can negatively impact the patient’s self-esteem? Well, psoriasis schmoriasis! If you really want to give your self-esteem a good wallop, try posing for a picture beside a stunning 23 year old professional ballerina.
|Just look at her posture!|
And just in case you have any slight scrap of self-confidence left, why not tear it to complete shreds by posing beside CariDee English, a former America’s Top Model winner? Who also happens to be a psoriasis sufferer. And about six feet tall. Wearing heels. (As was I – feel free to laugh!)
Moving swiftly along ….
There is Good News! Yes, it even deserves capitals! At every lecture, we heard repeated stories of new research being done and new drugs coming onto the market, some as soon as this year. But what is remarkable about some of these new drugs is that in clinical trials, they have attained 100% clearance of psoriasis in some patients. No more talk of 75% clear skin, or whooping with joy at possibly reaching 90% clear skin. This time people, we’re talking 100% clearance. It appears that this is now a realistic and achievable goal. Good to know as it genuinely never occurred to me to aim for anything less than 100% clear skin! I mean that’s a bit like saying ‘Oooh, I really hope I’ll come third in this race’. What on earth is the point of that? So yes! There is every reason to be hopeful, and although I’m not a scientist or a medic, I did understand that the key word in all this is ‘IL 17’. Don’t ask me the technical stuff … just know that this is what you need to ask your dermatologist about! Go forth and investigate.
But now the more sobering news. I always aim to keep things upbeat and positive on this blog, because quite honestly, there is enough negativity around the subject of psoriasis. But this subject is so serious that I’m not even going to attempt flippancy. I’m talking about comorbidities. I went to San Francisco and I knew the basics. I knew that having psoriasis meant having an increased risk of cardiac disease, stroke, Crohns disease and arthritis. But true to form, I buried my head in the sand convincing myself that such things could never happen to me. I live in a rose-tinted world where I honestly believe that psoriasis is ‘my thing’ – it would be too cruel to have something else thrown at me as well. (My world is a happy, albeit deluded, space!)
I sat in on lectures where the speakers did not expect to have patients in the audience. So they were blunt with their findings. There was no sugar coating of details for the patient’s benefit. And the stark reality is that as we know, psoriasis is not just a skin disease … it’s an autoimmune disorder. What we may not know however, is that very severe psoriasis can cause extreme cardiac inflammation. And this – are you sitting down? – can increase mortality risk by 50%. I saw the slides. They were terrifying. This highlights how important it is that people suffering with moderate to severe psoriasis see their dermatologist regularly … and yet studies show that 45% of patients have not visited their dermatologist in the past year.
Being overweight was cited again and again as a risk factor. It exacerbates psoriasis and in turn increases the risk of cardiac disease. These were grim lectures, given by both dermatologists and cardiologists. I gave up smoking 12 months ago (with thanks to a persistent dermatologist who shamed me into it!) but if I hadn’t, I honestly think these lectures would have scared me into quitting.
So the learnings are that we need to take care of ourselves. Not just of our skin, but of our whole bodies. The hypothesis is that when skin disease improves, vascular inflammation will decrease. Data is still being gathered for this. But even as we're waiting for our skin to clear, there is still plenty that we can all do to help ourselves. And it’s not rocket science! We’ve heard it all before.
- Reaching your goal weight is imperative
- Cut down on sugar
- Increase ‘healthy fats’ in the diet e.g. almonds, avocado, etc.
- Exercise; even if you can only manage a moderate amount. Some is better than none.
- Quit smoking
This has nothing to do with vanity and everything to do with living a healthy and longer life. For me, it was a serious wake-up call. I have been faffing about with the gym and half-heartedly watching my diet for the past few months. Well, no more! I am now on a mission to get back to goal weight, to follow the guidelines set out and basically to do everything that I can to help myself. So come join me and let’s see what we can achieve. And for goodness sake, if you haven’t seen your dermatologist in over a year, make it a priority to do so right now. Remember! This is not just a pretty catchphrase. Psoriasis really is more than skin deep!
End of lecture.
See you in a few days with fashion 'n fun!
See you in a few days with fashion 'n fun!