Arm with rash

Is the Skin You’re in Painful? It Could be Psoriasis.

When you think of your organs, the liver, heart, or lungs come to mind… but did you know that your skin is an organ, too? The largest organ of the human body, your skin shields you from germs, regulates your inner temperature, and protects your muscles and bones.

But unlike your heart and lungs, the skin is on the outside of your body – it’s something everyone sees, including you. If you have the skin condition psoriasis, the skin you’re in can often disrupt your entire life.

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month. If you or someone you know struggles with psoriasis, it’s a good time to learn more about it, including how to manage your triggers and get relief.

What is Psoriasis?

Woman Scratching Her Arm

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that makes the skin flaky and inflamed, and in more extreme cases, can cause discolored, patchy scaly, skin. Psoriasis can appear anywhere on the body and usually creates a burning sensation, sting, or intense itching. Basically, your skin goes into overdrive producing new cells, which then build up on the surface of your skin. These extra cells are what give your skin a raised look or scaly texture. Psoriasis itself isn’t an infection, and it’s not possible to “catch” it from someone who has it.

While much is known about the condition, doctors still aren’t 100% sure of what causes it. It’s a combination of genetics, or inherited risks, and triggers. Psoriasis is most common among people between the ages of 18 and 35, but it can happen at any stage of life.

There are seven different kinds of psoriasis (more on that below), each with its own symptoms and effects. Besides affecting your skin, psoriasis has been linked to serious, long-term conditions that include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and psychological issues.

Common Psoriasis Triggers

Cigarette Butts on Ashtrays

Even though psoriasis is caused by your genes – something you can’t control – there are plenty of lifestyle choices you can control which can help you manage your condition. Working together with a doctor, you can identify which of these factors trigger or worsen your condition:

  • Stress
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy, the menstrual cycle, menopause, or puberty
  • Certain medications

The Different Types of Psoriasis

Elbows with Psoriasis

There are seven unique types of psoriasis. In some cases, you may experience more than one of these at a time:

  • Plaque — The most common type of psoriasis causes red or white patches of flaky skin to form anywhere on the body.
  • Guttate — Small, droplet-shaped, sores may appear on the arms, legs, and neck. The second most-common type of psoriasis, it is most common with children and young adults; however, it can happen at any age.
  • Scalp — Scalp psoriasis can appear on your scalp, ears or forehead, and travel down to the back of your neck. It can be very mild, but it can also cause a severe itch and produce crusted sores. In the worst cases, it can lead to skin infections and hair loss.
  • Inverse — Unlike plaque psoriasis, inverse psoriasis has a smooth texture and usually does not produce scaly patches. It is commonly found around the armpits, breasts, genital area, and groin.
  • Pustular — Pustular psoriasis is a less-common type of psoriasis that can cause pus-filled blisters on the hands, feet, and fingertips. It usually only affects adults.
  • Erythrodermic — Erythrodermic psoriasis infects your whole body with a red rash that can burn, itch, and irritate your skin.
  • Nail — Nail psoriasis can appear on your fingernails and toenails. With this type of psoriasis, your nails may turn yellow, brown, or green, and lift away from the nailbed.

You Don’t Have to Suffer

Doctor with a Patient

Many who suffer from psoriasis say that Epsom salts bath can help ease the worst pain. Natural moisturizers can also help lubricate your skin, making you less likely to suffer an outbreak.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for psoriasis, but there are highly effective medications and over-the-counter remedies that can relieve pain, diminish its appearance, and lessen or shorten the outbreak. If psoriasis is causing you pain or getting in the way of performing normal activities, contact your doctor.

Because psoriasis may affect your appearance and your quality of life, it’s quite natural to feel down about it. We have professionals who can help with that, too. Learn more about how to access AltaMed’s behavioral health services.

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AltaMed The Health Risks of Loneliness and How Combat Them

The Health Risks of Loneliness and How to Combat Them

When was the last time you felt lonely?

Maybe it was because you moved to a new city, lost a family member or close friend, or started a new job where you didn’t know anyone.

If you’re like three in four Americans, you’ve probably battled loneliness at some point. For most of us, a little loneliness is a normal part of life. However, constantly feeling lonely can be harmful to your physical and mental health.

Causes of Loneliness

People in their late 20s, mid-50s, and late 80s are most likely to suffer loneliness. Common causes of long-term loneliness include:

  • Not getting enough sleep/irregular sleeping patterns
  • Overload of assignments at work
  • Too much time on social media
  • Not enough quality time with loved ones

Recent studies have shown that the effects of loneliness are as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and it’s as big a health risk as obesity. If it isn’t addressed loneliness can lead to:

  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Death

You don’t have to live with loneliness. Here are a few options that can connect you with other people and lift your mood.

Create a Writing or Audio Journal

Woman Sitting on the Floor Writing

Express your emotions: writing your thoughts down or talking things out can be therapeutic. Try creating a journal and writing in it regularly on either a daily or weekly basis, about your day and how you’re feeling. You don’t need anything fancier than a few sheets of paper or a Notepad-type program on your phone or computer.

If writing isn’t your thing, try making an audio journal. You can use the recorder on your phone to record how you feel throughout the day. Documenting your emotions can help you process situations and give you a better understanding of why you feel the way you do.

Join a Fitness Class

Senior People in a Tai Chi Class

Isolation from friends and family can take a toll on you. To meet new friends and other people in your community, try exercising. Exercise is great for your mental and physical health. Attending a weekly fitness class at your local gym or community center can give you something to look forward to and an opportunity to interact with others – you can even make new friends who have similar interests.

Many community centers and neighborhood fitness facilities offer free or low-cost classes. You can also explore Facebook groups or join Meetup to find fitness groups that are best suited for you.

Get A Pet

Woman Hugging Her Dog

Getting a furry or feathered friend can help you battle loneliness, provide some company, and give you a cuddle-buddy. In one study, 75% of pet-owners said their pet made them happier, 67% said they felt unconditional love, and 66% reported being less lonely. If you get a pet that can go on walks, you may even meet pet-owners, which may lead to doggie play-dates, and eventually, may lead to a human friendship.
If you live in an apartment or you just can’t get a pet right now, consider visiting or volunteering at a local shelter or rescue. If you visit, you’ll have the opportunity to pet, play with, and interact with lots of animals. And if you volunteer, you’ll meet new people who also love animals.

Going to Therapy

Doctor Talking To Patient

There’s no shame in getting a therapist. It can feel really good to talk to someone who gives you their full attention, and therapists can help you get to the root of your problem then help you develop “tools” for solving or dealing with it.

Within the Latino and African American communities, there is a negative perception of going to therapy that comes from the fear of a therapist exposing your “dirty laundry” to the world. Medical professionals take an oath to ensure your privacy and well-being is prioritized. They’re also required to follow the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which prohibits medical professionals from talking to anyone about what you’ve shared without your express permission.

Even if it’s common, loneliness shouldn’t stop you from living your life freely and experiencing new things. These activities are just a few of the many things you can do when you find yourself feeling lonely – or better yet, try them now to help stop loneliness before it even starts.

If you’ve experienced persistent loneliness or sadness, call AltaMed’s Behavioral Health services call (855) 425-1777. Loneliness hurts, but help may just be a phone call away.

Protecting Your Skin

Protecting Your Skin When It’s Cool Outside

Southern California may not be facing the extreme deep freeze of our friends in the Midwest, but even our cooler weather can leave skin dry, itchy, red, and raw. We wanted to share this handy guide to understanding your skin, how it can get dry and uncomfortable, and some solutions for keeping your skin healthy and moisturized during cold and dry days.

What Causes Dry Skin?

Man Scratching His Arm

Did you know that it’s not just the weather that dries out your skin? Taking too many hot showers, using harsh soaps, or getting too much sun can cause your skin to dry out, flake, or become rough. There are also some medical conditions that can affect your skin in the same way.

A Little Bit About Skin

Epidermis Chart

Our skin is made up of three layers, and each plays a part in our health. The first and deepest layer is made mostly of fat that keeps us warm, stores energy, and protects our organs from shocks. The second layer is the dermis, where blood vessels, oils, nerves, and hair follicles are located. The outer layer—what we really think of when we say “skin”—is called the epidermis. This layer is made up of stacked cells held together by a moist barrier made up of water and our own natural fats or oils. Every month these cells are shed and replaced by younger cells from lower in the epidermis.

How Moisturizers Work

Woman Using Body Cream

The first step in fighting skin dryness is to apply a moisturizer that you can easily find in a drugstore or supermarket. These are designed to attract moisture to the skin and lock it in, smoothing rough cells and protecting them. Many moisturizers also contain emollients that fill in the spaces between skin cells, helping them lay flat and level.

Thick, greasy moisturizers are often the most effective at keeping you from losing moisture when facing dry air and wind. Be sure to apply these options right after you get out of the shower or bath, when your skin is still damp, to seal the moisture into your cells. Water-based moisturizers may not be as thick, but may be more comfortable for wearing throughout the day.

How Age Affects Skin

Senior Woman Touching Her Face

We are more likely to suffer from dry skin as we age. Part of that is due to sun damage. Our skin also becomes thinner with age, making it harder to keep the moisture in the cells. Older skin alsodoesn’t produce the same amount of natural oils to protect the cells. Women, in particular, may see more dryness in their postmenopausal years as their bodies produce less of the hormones that once led to the creation of sweat and oil in the arms, legs, hands, and upper back.

Skin dryness can lead to complications including eczema, bleeding (from scratching dry, itchy skin), and even infections (from open sores), so it’s a good idea to continue to moisturize your skin, especially if you are over 64. If dryness persists, your doctor may need to prescribe stronger creams and check for medical conditions where dry skin is a symptom such as diabetes, lymphoma, psoriasis, hypothyroidism, and dermatitis.

Follow a Healthy Skin Care Routine

Young Woman Applying Cream on Her Face

Here are some more ways you can take care of your skin and prevent dryness year-round:

  • Use a humidifier during the winter to keep the air in your home moist
  • Keep your showers or baths short and use lukewarm (instead of hot) water
  • Choose soap-free cleansers
  • Apply moisturizer regularly, especially after washing your hands or bathing
  • Don’t scratch your dry skin! This can lead to bleeding, skin tears, and infections. Try a cold compress to help relieve any itchiness.
  • Use a good sunscreen (SPF 30+) year-round

While most Southern Californians are likely to be preoccupied with keeping cool in our blazing springs and summers, during the dry and windy months make sure you are keeping your skin healthy and moisturized to prevent scratchy, red dryness. Try different creams and lotions (fragrance and alcohol free) to find what works best for you. Ask your doctor for suggestions if your dry skin doesn’t get better when you follow these suggestions regularly.

Are you interested in finding out other ways to keep your skin healthy all year long? Here are some suggestions for summertime healthy skin habits.

Is the Skin You’re in Painful? It Could be Psoriasis.