(BPT) - Often mistaken as simply a cosmetic problem, psoriasis is actually a serious medical condition that affects approximately 7.5 million people across the U.S.While there is no cure, there are treatments that can help patients manage their symptoms. Dr. Carolyn Jacob, a board-certified dermatologist, knows first hand what it's like to live with the disease because not only is she a practicing dermatologist in Chicago, she has also been managing her own moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis since a young age. Here, she provides her unique perspective as both a patient and a physician, and answers common questions on living with and treating the disease.
Q: What is psoriasis?
A: While the exact cause is unknown, psoriasis occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells. This causes the formation of red, flaky patches called plaques, which most commonly appear on the knees, elbows, torso and lower back.
Q: What might surprise people about psoriasis?
A: Psoriasis is commonly mistaken as "just a skin condition," but it's actually a chronic (long-lasting) disease of the immune system that starts inside the body, underneath the surface of the skin. It is not a cosmetic problem; it's a serious medical condition and can also affect other aspects of a patient's life.
Q: What are some of the challenges you've faced living with psoriasis?
A: I was diagnosed with moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis when I was 14 years old. I became uncomfortable in my own skin and struggled figuring out how to treat my multiple, scattered plaques. Life was full of challenges - red flaky patches, a sense of losing control, and of course, embarrassing moments. I spent a lot of time thinking about and managing my moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis.
Q: As a patient and a dermatologist, what do you want people living with psoriasis to know?
A: It took me a long time to figure out how to live with my moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis; however, dealing with this chronic skin condition is what motivated me to become a dermatologist. I understand the embarrassing moments of my patients and the challenges in finding the right treatment for them. I also know that psoriasis may require systemic medications that work from inside the body, rather than outside.
Q: What treatment options are available for psoriasis?
A: There are many types of treatment options for moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis, including topicals (e.g., moisturizers or creams), phototherapy and a newer class of prescription drugs called biologics. A biologic is a medication that works from inside the body, rather than outside, to target parts of the immune system that trigger inflammation and cause damage. Because everyone's disease is different, the best way to determine the right treatment option for your moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis is to visit a dermatologist.
Q: Can you provide tips that may improve the conversations patients have with their physicians to find the best treatment options?
A: When patients go to their dermatologist, they need to remember that communication is a two-way street. The best relationships I have are with patients who come in with questions and concerns prepared. Understanding patients' specific challenges helps me understand symptoms, concerns, comfort level with different medications, and ultimately, what patients are looking to gain from treatment. From there, we can determine a treatment plan that works best for each patient.
Q: What moment of your treatment journey stands out to you the most?
A: One of the most meaningful moments of my treatment journey was right before my wedding day. At the time, I had only being using topical treatments. The topical treatments weren't helping me manage my disease, and as a dermatologist I became frustrated that I couldn't heal myself. Around the same time, I had prescribed HUMIRA (adalimumab), a type of biologic, to one of my friends with moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis. Unlike the topical treatments I had used that work from the outside, HUMIRA is an injectable, systemic medication that works from inside the body. When my friend started to see results with this type of treatment, I decided to consider it for myself. With an understanding of the risks and benefits of different treatment options, I determined that HUMIRA was the right choice for me. However, every patient needs to work with their doctor to find a treatment option that is right for them.
Q: Where can patients go for more information?
A: To find a dermatologist in your area and for tips on having effective conversations with your dermatologist, visit www.PsoriasisMoments.com.
About HUMIRA in the U.S.
HUMIRA is a prescription medicine used:
- To reduce the signs and symptoms of:
- Moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in adults. HUMIRA can be used alone, with methotrexate, or with certain other medicines. HUMIRA may prevent further damage to bones and joints and may help the ability to perform daily activities.
- Moderate to severe polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) in children 2 years of age and older. HUMIRA can be used alone, with methotrexate, or with certain other medicines.
- Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) in adults. HUMIRA can be used alone or with certain other medicines. HUMIRA may prevent further damage to bones and joints and may help the ability to perform daily activities.
- Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) in adults.
- Moderate to severe Crohn's disease (CD) and to achieve and maintain clinical remission in adults who have not responded well to conventional treatments. HUMIRA is also used to reduce signs and symptoms and achieve clinical remission in these adults who have also lost response to or are unable to tolerate infliximab.
- Moderate to severe Crohn's disease (CD) and to achieve and maintain clinical remission in children 6 years of age and older when certain other treatments have not worked well enough.
- In adults, to help get moderate to severe ulcerative colitis (UC) under control (induce remission) and keep it under control (sustain remission) when certain other medicines have not worked well It is not known if HUMIRA is effective in people who stopped responding to or could not tolerate anti-TNF medicines.
- To treat moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis (Ps) in adults who are ready for systemic therapy or phototherapy, and are under the care of a doctor who will decide if other systemic therapies are less appropriate.
Important Safety Information
HUMIRA is a TNF blocker medicine that affects the immune system and can lower the body's ability to fight infections. Serious infections have happened in people taking HUMIRA. These serious infections include tuberculosis (TB) and infections caused by viruses, fungi, or bacteria that have spread throughout the body. Some people have died from these infections. People should be tested for TB before HUMIRA use and monitored for signs and symptoms of TB during therapy. People at risk of TB may be treated with medicine for TB. Treatment with HUMIRA should not be started in a person with an active infection, unless approved by a doctor. HUMIRA should be stopped if a person develops a serious infection. People should tell their doctor if they live in or have been to a region where certain fungal infections are common, have had TB, hepatitis B, are prone to infections, or have symptoms such as fever, fatigue, cough, or sores.
For people taking TNF blockers, including HUMIRA, the chance of getting lymphoma or other cancers may increase. Some people have developed a rare type of cancer called hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma. This type of cancer often results in death. If using TNF blockers including HUMIRA, the chance of getting two types of skin cancer (basal cell and squamous cell) may increase. These types are generally not life- threatening if treated.
Other possible serious side effects with HUMIRA include hepatitis B infection in carriers of the virus; allergic reactions; nervous system problems; blood problems; certain immune reactions, including a lupus-like syndrome; liver problems; and new or worsening heart failure or psoriasis. The use of HUMIRA with anakinra or abatacept is not recommended. People using HUMIRA should not receive live vaccines.
Common side effects of HUMIRA include injection site reactions (redness, rash, swelling, itching, or bruising), upper respiratory infections (including sinus infections), headaches, rash, and nausea.
HUMIRA is given by injection under the skin.
The benefits and risks of HUMIRA should be carefully considered before starting therapy.
Globally, prescribing information varies; refer to the individual country product label for complete information.