Celebrities With Psoriasis: Kim Kardashian

People love her and people hate her, but there seems to be no getting away from her. Socialite and TV personality Kim Kardashian is known for many things, both good and bad.

First attracting attention in the instant blockbuster hit for E! “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” she later on gained public attention for her boutique, a perfume named after her and her other business ventures — as well as notoriety for her fickle 72-day marriage with basketball player Kris Humphries, her homemade sex tape with singer Ray J. She’s also attracted scorn for her being a “celebutante” and a socialite. [Ed’s note: Actually, Kardashian’s first claim to fame is her sex tape which came first before her TV hit.]

The people who hate her say she’s vapid, shallow, selfish and phony. But one good thing going for her is her brave admission of having psoriasis — and how that’s brought much-needed attention to the neglected, but often treacherous, skin disease.

Kardashian learned she has psoriasis in an episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” aired on July 2011. Alarmed after finding red, itchy patches on her legs, Kardashian headed to dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer who quickly diagnosed her itchy, scaly skin condition as psoriasis.

“I cannot have psoriasis,” Kardashian told her dermatologist on the reality TV show. “My career is doing ad campaigns and swimsuit photo shoots,” she said. “People don’t understand the pressure on me to look perfect. When I gain a pound, it’s in the headlines. Imagine what the tabloids would do to me if they saw all these spots.” But then, she went on to work her way around her ailment.

Pleased with the TV diva’s openness about of her skin condition, the National Psoriasis Foundation in the United States has hailed Kardashian on its website, saying it hopes her openness will brings more awareness to a disease.

What’s psoriasis?
A common but chronic skin condition, it’s not only painful — but it can cause disfigurement and disability. Psoriasis forms raised, red, scaly plaques that can itch, crack and bleed. In about one-fifth of cases, it’s so severe that no amount of creams and ointments is enough to control it.

What’s worse, there’s growing evidence that the condition is linked with high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease and arthritis.

About one in every 10 persons with psoriasis will develop arthritis, and those with extensive, severe skin disease are three or four times more likely to get the painful, degenerative joint disease. In most instances, the skin condition appears before the arthritis.

The disease can develop at any age, but usually it starts in the 20s and 30s. Believed to be caused by a combination of genes, the immune system, and the environment, psoriasis can be localized — it can break out on the scalp or elbows — or it can be all over the body.

But genes are key cause of the condition: nearly half (or 40 percent to be precise) of patients have family members with psoriasis. “I’ve heard of it before, because my mom has always had it,” Kardashian says on her show. “But she didn’t have red flaky dots all over,” Kardashian said.

An abnormality in the body’s immune system — which in normal conditions fights infection and allergic reactions — is thought to behind psoriasis.

T cells — a type of white blood cells that fights off infections in the body — attack healthy skin cells in persons with psoriasis. When the dead skin cells and white blood cells can’t clear, they form rash.