2011 was the very first time Kim Kardashian West revealed to the world that she had psoriasis. A segment on the hit reality show ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ that documents the rich and jet setting but dramatic lives of the entire Kardashian/Jenner clan showed Kim worrying about a red rash that started from her legs and spread to the rest of her body. A visit to her dermatologist confirmed that she had developed the skin disease psoriasis, something that was passed on to her from her mom Kris Jenner who also struggles with it.
What is psoriasis? It is a chronic, genetic disease of the immune system that appears on the skin, often as red, scaly patches that itch and bleed, according to Psoriasis.org. Psoriasis occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells and the disease is not contagious. It most commonly occurs on the scalp, knees, elbows and torso, but it doesn’t mean that other areas of the body are immune to it. Rashes can develop almost anywhere. However, it rarely appears on the face of the affected person.
There are five types of psoriasis: plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular and erythrodermic. Nearly 80 percent of people with the disease have plaque psoriasis — the most common form — which appears as dry, raised, red skin patches (lesions) covered with silvery scales. The plaques might be itchy or tender and there may be few or many. They usually appear on elbows, knees, lower back and scalp.
30 percent of the people affected by the disease develop psoriatic arthritis which causes painful swelling of the joints, Kim is one of them. In a detailed essay about what it’s like to live with the disease on Poosh in 2019, Kim writes that her situation got so worse that she couldn’t pick up the phone one night.
“I woke up that morning and I still couldn’t pick up my phone. I was freaking out — I couldn’t even pick up a toothbrush, my hands hurt so badly.” She adds, “As the day went on, I got a bit more movement in my hands, but they really hurt from the inside — I felt it in my bones.”
A couple of days later Kim got her blood work done and after receiving false lupus and rheumatoid diagnosis, she once again went in to get tested and was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. “It’s similar to arthritis that can stem from psoriasis and it can come and go. It’s still painful and scary,” Kim wrote about the condition. Recalling another incident she writes, “I remember I had a press day for my Carolina Lemke sunglasses and I was wearing these purple boots and snake-print pants and I couldn’t get my pants down to go to the bathroom. I couldn’t even get my bra on that day, and I had to have someone dress me because the pain was so unbearable. With the boots I was wearing, my ankles started to feel it in those joints. That’s when I knew it wasn’t just an issue in my hands, it was a bone problem.” However, Kim continues to stay positive about her situation and in her essay even affirmed that any auto-immune disease was manageable with proper care.
August is Psoriasis Awareness Month and it brings an opportunity for survivors and activists to share tips and raise awareness about the genetic disease. In this column, we highlight the struggles of celebrities and talk about preventative and cure measures.