As with other chronic skin diseases, living with psoriasis is a frustrating and painful experience, especially when you don't know when you will flare up. However, psoriasis is distinct from skin conditions like eczema because it’s caused by an overactive immune system rather than an allergic reaction. Let’s dive deeper into exploring how your body’s immune system relates to your psoriasis. Understanding this will help you learn better strategies to overcome the challenges of psoriasis.
What is the Immune System?
The immune system is the body’s defense against harmful microbes and pathogens. You may hear the immune system referred to as one thing, but it is actually a network of cells, tissues, organs, and chemical signals that act in concert to protect and heal the body.
When foreign invaders attack your body, there is a first line of defense that detects it and starts a chain reaction of messages to alert your neutrophils, macrophages, and simultaneously send messages to alert your T- and B- cells to respond. For example, when you get a splinter, the foreign invader is the little piece of wood. Cells in your skin layer detects that it has been damaged and alerts other cells. The response will be to flood the damaged area with cells to attack the foreign body causing swelling and redness. Imagine the swelling and burning is where the fight is happening between the foreign substance and your body. Your immune system will respond differently to each “attack” by creating specific and specialized T cells that will identify the attacker and coordinate the response.
How does your Immune System Cause Psoriasis?
Normally, the immune system will recognize which cells are part of the self and which ones are foreign. In people with autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakes the body’s cells as foreign and starts attacking when triggered. In people who develop psoriasis, the immune system attacks the skin and the skin responds by producing more cells in effort to heal. The skin cells build up so quick that the older skin does not have time to shed and causes plaques. Since everyone’s body is different, the response is different and different types of psoriasis can occur.
Psoriasis has been found to be linked to both genetic and environmental factors. Someone with a certain genetic makeup can have a higher vulnerability to getting psoriasis. If you have relatives that also have psoriasis, you may have a higher chance of developing it too. Sometimes environmental factors can trigger one to develop psoriasis, just like how some people can acquire an allergy over time by being exposed to a trigger in their environment. It’s important to learn the link between your immune system and your psoriasis because everyone’s triggers are different. Sun, stress, foods, alcohol, smoking, medication, and other infections are some triggers, to name a few.
Tip: Start a psoriasis diary. Whenever you get a flare-up, write down and track your trigger details: date, how severe is the flare up, weather, stress level, what you ate or drank recently, recent activities, etc. Take pictures too! Embrace your imperfections and track your healing process.
Mastering Your Body’s Immune System and Overcoming Psoriasis
Your trigger is also not just one thing, it can be a combination of things or a variety. Hence, everyone’s treatment can be different. If you can learn about and control your triggers, you will have better control over your psoriasis.
Your body is an extraordinary creation. Every cell is a working, doing something different, but coming together to create the amazing person that is you. Understanding all this, it is important to take a holistic approach to heal from improving physical health, mental health, and forming healthy habits. Although there is no true cure, treatment can definitely help. Don’t worry, we’re on this journey with you! Join our community to share your story and learn what others like you are doing to control symptoms.