Risks of Not Treating Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes thick, red, scaly patches called plaques to develop. These plaques can be itchy, painful, and embarrassing. For many people, having psoriasis means dealing not only with the symptoms, but also with the treatments. These include creams and ointments that can be messy, oral or injectable medications that can be expensive and come with serious risks and side effects, and light treatments that can be inconvenient and time-consuming. And for most people, treatment or prevention of psoriasis flares is a life-long commitment.
You may wonder if it’s worth all of the trouble. And you may be concerned about the risks that come with your psoriasis medications or treatments. However, the risks of not treating your psoriasis are much more than skin deep.
Untreated psoriasis can lead to plaques that continue to build and spread. These can be quite painful, and the itching can be severe. Uncontrolled plaques can become infected and cause scars. In addition:
- Scalp psoriasis can lead to hair loss, which could be permanent.
- You may develop painful changes in your nails, and you may even lose your nails.
- If you have arthritis along with your psoriasis (psoriatic arthritis), you can have joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. You will need to take oral or injectable medications for this. If you don’t keep up with treatment, you could have permanent joint damage, which can be painful and disabling.
Increased frequency and severity of flares
If you take daily medications to treat and prevent flares, not keeping up with your treatments can be especially costly on your health. You will likely have more flares, along with the pain and frustration that go with them. And, stopping some medications suddenly or too soon can lead to the rebound effect. The rebound effect is when a flare occurs right after stopping a treatment. Flares that happen with the rebound effect spread quickly and often have symptoms that are much worse than you are used to with typical flares.
Rarely, if you’re not controlling your psoriasis or stop your medications too quickly, you can even get a different type of psoriasis than you’re used to. Erythrodermic psoriasis is one type that can develop in people whose plaque psoriasis is uncontrolled. It is characterized by a severe, widespread, sunburn-like rash that leads to peeling of the skin. People with this type of psoriasis usually have severe itching and pain. They may develop swelling, infections, or congestive heart failure. Many people with this form of psoriasis need to be treated in the hospital, and a few may even die from complications.
Reduced quality of life
The pain and itching that go along with psoriasis flares can keep you up at night and cause you to feel tired the next day. This can affect how well you do at your job or in school. Severe psoriasis symptoms may even make it hard for you to care for yourself or your loved ones. Psoriasis of your hands or feet can interfere with your ability to do your job, play sports, or engage in hobbies. You may even have trouble walking and keeping active. Many people with psoriasis feel unattractive and isolate themselves from others. They may avoid going out in public, wearing clothing that shows their plaques, or participating in activities like swimming that make it difficult to hide their symptoms. Experts find that people who can control their psoriasis report a higher quality of life, miss less work, and are more productive at work.
Depression, anxiety, and suicide
Stress can be both a trigger and the result of psoriasis flares. People with psoriasis have a higher risk of depression and anxiety than those without it. They also have more suicidal thoughts and attempts, especially if their disease is severe. The social isolation that often goes along with having psoriasis can make depression symptoms worse. Fortunately, studies show that treating your psoriasis can improve symptoms of depression.
THIS CONTENT DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. This content is provided for informational purposes and reflects the opinions of the author. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding your health. If you think you may have a medical emergency, contact your doctor immediately or call 911.
Marusinec, MD, is a pediatrician with expertise in urgent care and dermatology.
She has been in practice for over 17 years. She is also a freelance medical
writer and editor.
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