Psoriasis is Much More Than a Skin Disease

Affecting as many as one million Canadians (10) and more than 125 million people worldwide (11), psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by thick and extensive skin lesions, called plaques, known to cause itching, scaling, and pain (12). People living with psoriasis reported that these symptoms can negatively impact their quality of life, both psycho-socially and physically, which makes daily functioning difficult (3,4,11). Additionally, patients with psoriasis are at increased risk for other chronic illnesses (4) such as psoriatic arthritis, a type of inflammatory arthritis, which about 30% of people who have psoriasis get (6). In Canada, the prevalence of psoriasis is estimated at approximately 2%. According to a recent Canadian database study, 85% have chronic plaque psoriasis, 28% of which are considered moderate to severe (13). Psoriasis symptoms can begin at any age, including in childhood, but the disease mainly affects adults (14). Symptoms start when a combination of environmental triggers and genetic factors disrupt the life cycle of skin cells (12).

Psoriasis is so much more than a skin disease and has effects on people’s quality of life similar to cancer or heart disease (1).

  • This common and distressing disease is not simply a cosmetic problem – even people with very mild symptoms find this condition affects their everyday life (2-5).
  • The effect of psoriasis on people’s quality of life has been shown to be similar to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis or type 2 diabetes (4).
  • Individuals with psoriasis are at an elevated risk to develop other chronic and serious health conditions also known as “comorbidities” such as psoriatic arthritis and they also are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease and depression (6).
  • World Psoriasis Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness, change perceptions, educate healthcare providers, and improve access to treatment by providing a platform for patients to speak about their disease (7).


ILW Recommends: Try these soothing natural remedies for psoriasis


“Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease with the body’s immune system producing inflammation and damaging healthy tissue. The systemic inflammation in psoriasis generates elevated levels of specific proteins which may contribute to an overall lower life expectancy in these patients, as it also manifests in the joints and has other comorbidities like psoriatic arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, obesity, metabolic syndrome and other immune-related conditions such as Crohn’s disease and lymphoma (8).” said Dr. Charles W. Lynde MD, FRCPC and Medical Director of the Lynde Institute for Dermatology in Markham, Ontario. “It is important to understand, however, that psoriasis is not contagious and it cannot be spread from one person to another (8). Overall, psoriasis and its associations with multiple systemic health problems needs to be better understood.”

Living with psoriasis causes unique challenges to those afflicted. “When I’m experiencing a psoriasis flare-up, I’ve had people call me contagious and refuse to let me touch them. While I understand their fear, it’s based on misinformation, ignorance and misunderstanding,” said Cindy Mamber, who has been living with psoriasis for numerous years now.

The feelings of stigmatization people living with psoriasis experience, due to the appearance of their skin, can lead to feelings of self-consciousness, embarrassment, unattractiveness, frustration, anger, helplessness, worry, lower self-esteem, social inhibition, vulnerability and rejection, with some patients wearing clothing to hide skin lesions. (9)


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Sheri Orvis shares what it’s like to live with chronic psoriasis:

“I believe I was around 5 years old when my mother first noticed some red spots on my legs, which she thought was chicken pox, but when she took me to the doctor, it was diagnosed as psoriasis.  Since then, it came and it went, almost like it went into remission at different points in my life. As I became older, kids would tease me at school and I developed anxiety and it became harder to go to school. I didn’t want to be around people. When my psoriasis became really bad in my teen years, it was difficult and embarrassing for me.  I didn’t want anyone to see me in short sleeves or shorts.  I couldn’t dress the way I really wanted to and it made it horribly uncomfortable in the summer months.”


About Skin Impressions

The international Skin Impressions campaign is a collaboration between Novartis and professional photographer Rick Guidotti of Positive Exposure© to capture what it means to people living with severe skin diseases like psoriasis and chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU) and to their loved ones. The campaign features 14 Patient Ambassadors from around the world and aims to break down barriers that prevent people with severe skin diseases from living their lives to the fullest through images and videos.

Bio: Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., a leader in the healthcare field, is committed to the discovery, development and marketing of innovative products to improve the well-being of all Canadians. In 2013, the company invested close to $100 million in research and development in Canada. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. employs more than 600 people in Canada. For further information, please consult their website. You can also Fine Novartis on Facebook and Twitter.




1. Mehta NN, Yu Y, Saboury B, Foroughi N, Krishnamoorthy P, Raper A, Baer A, Antigua J, Van Voorhees AS, Torigian DA, Alavi A, Gelfand JM. Systemic and vascular inflammation in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis as measured by [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography-computed tomography (FDG-PET/CT): a pilot study. Arch Dermatol. 2011 Sep;147(9):1031-9

2. Langley RGB, Krueger GG, Griffiths CEM. Psoriasis: epidemiology, clinical features, and quality of life. Ann Rheum Dis 2005; 64(suppl 2):ii18-ii23.

3. Rapp SR, Feldman SR, Exum ML, Fleischer AB, Jr., Reboussin DM. Psoriasis causes as much disability as other major medical diseases. J Am Acad Dermatol 1999; 41(3 Pt 1):401-7.

4. Farley E et al. Psoriasis: comorbidities and associations. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2011 Feb;146(1):9-15.

5. Stern RS, Nijsten T, Feldman SR, Margolis DJ, Rolstad T. Psoriasis Is Common, Carries a Substantial Burden Even When Not Extensive, and Is Associated with Widespread Treatment Dissatisfaction. J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc 2004; 9(2):136-9.

6. National Psoriasis Foundation website. “Health conditions associated with psoriasis“. Accessed October 24, 2014.

7. International Federation of Psoriasis Associations (IFPA) World Psoriasis Day website. “About World Psoriasis Day.” Accessed October 24, 2014.

8. Canadian Psoriasis Network website. “What is Psoriasis?” Accessed October 24, 2013.

9. Armstrong AW, Schupp C, Wu J, Bebo B. Quality of life and work productivity impairment among psoriasis patients: findings from the National Psoriasis Foundation survey data 2003-2011. PLoS One. 2012;7:e52935.

10.  Canadian Assocation of Psoriasis Patients “What is Psoriasis”. Accessed October 24, 2013.

11.  National Psoriasis Foundation Website. “Facts about Psoriasis“. Accessed October 24, 2014.

12. Nestle FO, Kaplan DH, Barker J. Psoriasis. N Engl J Med 2009; 361(5):496-509.

13. Petrella RJ, Gregory V, Luciani L, Barbeau M . Characteristics of chronic plaque psoriasis in Canada: a retrospective database study. (PSS7) Poster presented at ISPOR 19th Annual International Meeting, Montréal, QC, Canada, May 2014

14. Raval K, Lofland JH, Waters HC, Tak Piech C. Disease and treatment burden of psoriasis: Examining the impact of biologics. J Drugs Dermatol 2011; 10(2):189-96

SOURCE Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc.

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