Is Psoriasis Reversible?

Anyone who has psoriasis knows the discomfort it can cause—itching, burning, stinging, soreness. It can even prevent some people from participating in the social activities they enjoy if they’re uncomfortable being seen in public with the telltale raised red patches, sometimes with silverish-white scales on their skin.

Psoriasis can be confused with eczema because the two share some symptoms, but there are a couple of symptoms that can set psoriasis apart—stiff, swollen joints and patches of inflamed redness. People can be genetically predisposed to contracting psoriasis if one or especially both parents suffer from it, but it can also arise from environmental triggers.

At its core, psoriasis is an autoimmune disease; it’s an immune system response in which the body’s T cells that normally protect it against disease go awry and start attacking healthy skin cells. This, in turn, triggers other immune responses, creating more severe reactions.

Flare-ups can last from weeks to months and can be cyclical; outbreaks can range from mild to severe, showing up in small spots or spreading over large areas. Some of the most common triggers are chronic stress, obesity, food allergies or sensitivities, medications, drying environmental conditions, infections, over-consumption of alcohol, and smoking.

The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) states that there are five different types of psoriasis, ranging from common to rare: plaque (most common type), guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic (rare and most severe; can become life-threatening). Each type presents with a different appearance and usually shows up in specific areas of the head and body, but flare-ups can occur anywhere.

There are further risks to having psoriasis, and among them is the possibility of developing psoriatic arthritis, a debilitating condition marked by inflammation, pain, and progressive joint damage. The NPF estimates that approximately 30 percent of people with psoriasis will be diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. If left untreated, psoriatic arthritis can cause permanent joint damage; in addition, more than 30 percent of patients with psoriatic arthritis developed hearing loss, and more than 26 percent had inner ear damage.

Other possible serious health conditions that could arise from having psoriasis include cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, Crohn’s disease, kidney disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, osteoporosis, depression, diabetes and more. The NPF states that there is a “significant association between psoriatic disease and metabolic syndrome”, which includes several health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure and abdominal obesity; approximately 40 percent of psoriasis patients develop metabolic syndrome.

Dermatologists typically treat psoriasis with topical creams and moisturizers in an effort to minimize discomfort and lessen the appearance of flare-ups; they may also use phototherapy or prescribe immune-suppressing medications. However, these creams and medications merely suppress the symptoms to some degree—and many have dangerous side effects that can lead to new serious health issues.

While conventional medicine looks to suppress the immune system, functional medicine works to strengthen it. Specialists like dermatologists, endocrinologists and others focus only on the affected organ system of their specialty rather than the whole person; therefore, if the root of the condition stems from a different part of the body or another undetected disorder, it will remain overlooked and the problem continues…and usually worsens.

As with any autoimmune disease, there is an underlying cause that goes far deeper than the skin reactions you see on the surface. And the only way to truly manage any autoimmune disease, including psoriasis, so that you don’t have to endure the constant cyclical flare-ups is to find out why your immune system has become confused enough to attack healthy tissue. Standard blood, urine, and other tests don’t dig deep enough to unearth the real problem, but your functional medicine doctor will conduct extremely comprehensive tests to reach the “why” of your psoriasis.

The answer to reversing or preventing your psoriasis—or any health issue—from progressing further lies in finding both the root cause and your specific triggers. Everyone’s triggers are different, and there can be a combination of culprits including food sensitivities or allergies, stress, environmental toxins, nutritional deficiencies, undiscovered infections, genetic factors, leaky gut and others. Through a correct diagnosis of the true cause of your psoriasis, proper lifestyle changes will help to heal the source—which not only helps your skin, but can also prevent other health issues from developing.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Knee Pain? Surgery or Medication May Not Be Your Only Option

There are many possible reasons for knee pain, from arthritis to tendinitis to soft tissue tears. But these often-heard diagnoses may not be the root cause of your pain, and some may be reversible without turning to surgery or dangerous painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications.

Increasingly severe knee pain is what brought Pamela D. to my practice after four months of seeing several doctors, then being sent for MRIs and physical therapy. Her problem began with “little” signs – pain when crossing her legs or sitting cross-legged. Being in her 50s, she wrote those off to normal aging issues and just stopped doing them. But over the next several months, she experienced more and more pain, sometimes while just sitting still and at other times when climbing stairs or walking normally.

No amount of lifestyle adjustment helped and the pain got worse daily, so she started going to doctors for answers. Without a clear diagnosis and multiple conflicting opinions, she was sent to physical therapy, which made things worse. The pain spread to her thigh joint and down into her ankle. A pain management doctor performed physical tests with no conclusions and sent her for x-rays followed by MRIs of the knees, hips and thigh joints.

The x-rays showed no bone issues, but the radiologist’s report of the MRI said that Pamela had a complete tear in the left knee meniscus and a partial tear in the right knee meniscus. Both would need surgery, she was told, which would mean lengthy and painful recoveries.

Pamela took the MRI images to her orthopedist, who read them and said the radiologist misread the images – she definitely did not have any tears. What was misinterpreted as tears were merely shadows. He performed several intense physical tests, at one point applying 40 pounds of pressure to the knees; Pamela experienced no pain, proving there was no tear.

However, the orthopedist said there was nothing that could be done to relieve the pain other than lifelong cortisone shots, with no guarantees. He said she should never climb stairs, squat or even step up onto curbs for the rest of her life. Being extremely fearful of needles and knowing cortisone shots would be nothing more than a mask for the problem if they worked at all, she searched further and found me.

Pamela’s pain had now worsened to the point where she could barely walk, couldn’t drive and was confined to her home unless one of her family members drove her and supported her while walking; her gait had become quite slow and her steps were small. Not surprisingly, she was becoming depressed at the idea of losing her independence for the rest of her life, being in pain daily and giving up things she loved to do, like hiking.

After doing extensive testing, I discovered there were both neurological and emotional components behind Pamela’s pain. She was extremely doubtful when I said she would be fine, but she was committed to my program, which included in-office therapies and neurological exercises done at home, along with implementing ways I suggested to help resolve her emotional pain. I also gave her remedies and supplements for both the current problem and for other underlying deficiencies and issues her doctors hadn’t found.

Almost immediately, Pamela saw improvements beginning. By the end of her three-month program, she felt she was halfway back to normal and opted to continue with me for another three months. Toward the end of that time, she was driving herself to my office (over an hour), walking at a normal pace without help (including going up stairs), and doing all the things her orthopedist said she never could do again. In short, according to her, she was “better than normal.”

The point is that things may not always be what they seem when it comes to physical pain. A diagnosis can be wrong or inconclusive, a suggestion of permanent pain and disability can be reversed. Localized treatments like physical therapy or moist heat may not help or may only offer temporary relief because they may not be targeting the actual cause of the problem.

While some medical testing like x-rays and MRIs can help eliminate or confirm causes, it’s only by digging deeper, beyond standard medical testing, that we can zero in on the underlying issues that are manifesting through more obvious, sometimes painful symptoms.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.