Kimberly Noel Kardashian, one of the most visible women in the United States today, suffers from psoriasis, a skin disease that causes raised red patches with silvery scales to form on her body. Three percent of North Americans or more than eight million people have this hereditary condition.
Kardashian is a fashion designer, model, and actress and is most famous as a star in the reality television series “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” In 2010, she was named the highest-paid reality television personality, earning around $6 million that year.
She was born in Los Angeles on October 21, 1980. At age 19, she eloped with music producer Damon Thomas. Prior to her divorce in 2003, she began dating singer Ray J. In August 2011, Kardashian married basketball player Kris Humphries in a wedding produced for television. After only 72 days of marriage, she filed for divorce which was granted in June 2013. She started to date rapper Kanye West in April 2012, gave birth to their daughter North West in June 2013, and became engaged to him in October 2013.
After finding red, flaky patches of skin on her legs in 2011, she had her diagnosis of psoriasis featured on an episode of her TV reality show.
Psoriasis Means You Make Too Much Skin
Normal skin changes every 28 days. New skin cells continuously form underneath the bottom layer of skin. As each new skin cell forms, it pushes the skin cell above it toward the surface. It usually takes a normal skin cell 28 days to move from the bottom layer to the top where it flakes off as dander or dandruff. When you have psoriasis, it takes only four days for a skin cell to move to the top layer and be shed. Psoriasis means that you make seven times as much skin as normal people do.
This rapid skin turnover causes the skin to thicken and form plaques that are not soft and pliable like normal skin. The rigidity of the plaques causes them to crack instead of bending. These breaks in the skin’s surface cause itching, pain, burning and infections, and can hurt when you move the affected area.
Inflammation Causes Increased Skin Turnover
When a germ gets into your body, you make cells and proteins that attack that germ and try to kill it. Your immunity is supposed to protect you by attacking only foreign proteins. It is not supposed to attack you. With psoriasis, for some unknown reason your immunity attacks your own skin and causes your skin to turn over at a very fast rate. This is called inflammation and psoriasis is an inflammatory disease. It is also called an autoimmune disease because your immunity is attacking your own tissue for no known reason.
Sometimes psoriasis can be treated just with ointments and lotions. However, the worst cases are very difficult to treat so doctors use drugs that shut down a person’s immunity so it stops attacking the skin. These drugs are not safe because they increase risk for infections and even cancer.
Safe Treatments Specific for Psoriasis
All autoimmune diseases can worsen when a person is low on vitamin D, so the first treatment for psoriasis usually includes a prescription containing a special vitamin D ointment. Ointments are particularly helpful since they help to soften the plaques. Sunlight itself slows skin turnover and helps to treat psoriasis. However, sunlight can also increase skin cancer risk, so it must be used with caution. Dermatologists use many different rays such as lasers to treat psoriasis.
Forty years ago my associate, Dr. Ronald Shore, showed that plain duct tape can clear psoriatic patches. All you have to do is stick duct tape on a thick plaque and leave it there until it falls off after a week or two. Often the skin underneath is clear when the tape comes off.
Universal Lifestyle Treatment for All Diseases
People who suffer from psoriasis are at increased risk for heart attacks. The same factors that worsen psoriasis also increase risk for heart attacks, diabetes and certain cancers, so all people with psoriasis should follow the universal rules for healthful living:
• Eat a healthful, anti-inflammatory diet (eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts; avoid processed foods, sugared drinks, sugar-added foods, red meat and fried foods)
• Keep blood levels of hydroxy vitamin D above 75 nmol/L
• Restrict alcohol
• Avoid smoking and breathing second-hand smoke
• Avoid overweight
• Exercise daily