Skin

27 July 2011

Kim Kardashian has psoriasis

Kim Kardashian appears to have developed the skin disease psoriasis, but is her modelling career really over? Read more about the condition here.

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In a report on the UK newspaper the Daily Mail, Kim Kardashian is apparently "horrified to discover that she has developed the skin disease psoriasis" in an episode of the popular Keeping Up with the Kardashians, aired in the UK last night.

The report states that in the show, Kim develops an angry red rash, first on her legs, that soon spreads all over her body. 

"After seeing her dermatologist, Kim panics when she researches the condition on the Internet and realises her entire body could end up covered in the painful patches," the Daily Mail reports, adding that Kim now fears her "career doing ad campaigns and swimsuit photo shoots" may be over.

But is she being overly-dramatic?

What is psoriasis and what causes it?

Psoriasis is a common skin disorder and one of the most baffling and persistent. Underlying skin cells on the knees, elbows and scalp of sufferers multiply up to 10 times faster than normal; as they pile up on the surface, they cause raised, white-scaled patches. The reason for the rapid cell growth is unknown, but outbreaks are triggered by the immune system.

It's not contagious but it does appear to be a complex genetic disease, and it would appear that in Kim's case, she may have inherited the condition from her mother Kris.

Although psoriasis may be stressful and embarrassing, most outbreaks are relatively benign – early treatment of the plaques will help prevent symptoms becoming more severe, and plaques generally disappear within weeks. Read more here about the different forms of psoriasis here.

Recent research indicates that psoriasis is a disorder of the immune system. A type of white blood cell, called a T cell, helps protect the body against infection and disease. It seems that abnormalities in the so-called T helper cells are associated with psoriasis. It is what precipitates the change that is the mystery.

Emotional stress is one reason for an 'episode' of psoriasis and many patients suffering a flare-up report a recent emotional stressor, such as a new job or the death of a loved one. Severe sunburn, obesity and certain drugs – including the anti-malaria medication chloroquine, lithium, anti-depressant beta-blockers like propranolol and metoprolol, medication taken to treat high blood pressure, and almost any medicated ointment or cream – can aggravate psoriasis.

Streptococcal infections (especially in children), and injured skin (bruises and scratches) can also stimulate the formation of new plaques. Alcohol consumption clearly makes psoriasis worse.

However, it can be controlled with medication and phototherapy.

Watch the video of Kim visiting her dermatologist here.

Sources: Daily Mail, Health24

(Amy Froneman, Health24, July 2011)

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Skin expert

Dr Suretha Kannenberg holds a degree in Medicine and a Masters in Dermatology from the University of Stellenbosch. She is employed as a consultant dermatologist by Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, where she is involved in clinical duties and the training of medical students and dermatology residents. Her areas of interest and research include vitiligo, eczema and acne. She also performs limited private practice work in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town in general and cosmetic dermatology.

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