People suffering from psoriasis are more at risk of depression

One in three people living with psoriasis suffers from depression, according to a survey recently released by the National Psoriasis Foundation.

But a D.C.-area dermatologist sees hope for better management amid the new research released this month.

“Mental health is really important when people have psoriasis,” said Dr. Lawrence Green, a clinical professor of dermatology at George Washington University School of Medicine and a fellow at the American Academy of Dermatology. Green also has a practice in Rockville.

One person illustrating Green’s point is 26-year-old Austin Tolchin of D.C. Speaking with WTOP, he explained how stress made his psoriasis worse, and he offered advice for others who have it.

Austin Tolchin, 26, of DC has battled life with Psoriasis. (Courtesy, Austin Tolchin)

The same inflammatory chemical that is known to promote psoriasis, TNF, is also high in people with depression, and depression is linked to inflammation.

So, Green said, multiple factors could contribute to someone with psoriasis being prone to depression.

One, because of how they look, but also internally. Green said they may have chemicals that promote depression in their bodies — especially those with more severe cases.

Green chairs the National Psoriasis Foundation research committee, which awards annual grants to study mental health issues and psoriasis.

Regarding TNF, the chemical that’s linked to both psoriasis and depression: “When you take a medicine that improves that for psoriasis, it also will improve your risk for depression. So we do have ways [for treatment], but we need a lot more. We want to get more specific and find ways to treat both conditions,” Green said, referring to the grants.

Dr. Lawrence Green is a clinical professor of dermatology at George Washington University School of Medicine. (Courtesy, Dr. Larry Green)

Traditional psoriasis treatments of the past have involved the use of topical steroids that can have side effects and thin the skin, leaving people to worry about how, where and how long they can be used.

Newer medications are changing the way psoriasis can be managed.

“You can use it for as long as you want. There’s no restrictions. It doesn’t hurt the skin,” Green said. “So the treatment paradigm is really changing.”

“You can live psoriasis-free when you go to see your board-certified dermatologist,” Green said.

Psoriasis can make some other conditions worse, and some other conditions can make psoriasis worse.

People who are more overweight, drink alcohol and smoke tend to have more severe psoriasis, and people who have untreated and more-severe psoriasis have more of a tendency to develop heart disease and high blood pressure, according to Green.

“So controlling your psoriasis doesn’t just control your skin,” he said. “It can help control all these other comorbidities so you can live a longer, healthier life.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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