Dr Anwar Al Hammadi, Head of Dermatology Department, DHA Image Credit: Supplied

Previously, psoriasis was under-diagnosed. This has now changed and at Dubai Health Authority’s skin clinic, around 9 per cent of visitors are seeking treatment for the condition. Yet, rather than viewing psoriasis as a skin condition, Dr Anwar Al Hammadi, Head of Dermatology Department, DHA, says that the treatment approach and understanding of psoriasis has evolved.

“In the past, psoriasis was known as a skin disease but now it is recognised as a systemic disease, with lots of associations to different diseases that aren’t related to the skin. For example, 30 per cent of people with psoriasis might develop psoriatic arthritis. We know that those with psoriasis are prone to suffer from high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome and depression.”

The conventional treatments for psoriasis are creams or phototherapy. Yet, if these fail, there are other treatment pathways available. “For patients with severe cases of the condition, who don’t respond to conventional therapy, we have biological therapy,” says Dr Hammadi. “Biological therapy is a special kind of molecule that targets the underlying pathogenesis or cause of psoriasis. Now that we have a better understanding of psoriasis, we know what molecules to target. For example, the IL-17 and IL-12 inhibitors can treat psoriasis, so if one biological therapy doesn’t work, there are still other options.”

Dr Hammadi explains that biological therapy is improving and that treatments are becoming safer. “Next month a new therapy called Anti-interleukin-23 (IL-23) is launching. It is a very promising molecule because it is very safe and it is very effective. There are no concerns about infection or its impact on the liver.”

Raising awareness

DHA is keen to raise awareness of psoriasis and the fact that it is a chronic disease associated with other health issues, such as obesity. October 29 is World Psoriasis Day and DHA is planning to use the occasion to highlight the condition in a creative way. Dr Hammadi explains, “DHA and Emirates Dermatologist Society will be breaking a Guinness World Record by revealing the largest psoriasis awareness ribbon in the world at Dubai Polo Club.”