It’s Not Just Scaly Patches

Did I ever mention that I have latent psoriasis? Or that it has something to do with Chronic Kidney Disease? Hmmm, well maybe it’s time… not that most people ever want to admit they have unsightly psoriasis. 

I realize not everyone knows what that is, so we’ll start with a definition from the Mayo Clinic

“Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes red, itchy scaly patches, most commonly on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp. 

Psoriasis is a common, long-term (chronic) disease with no cure. It tends to go through cycles, flaring for a few weeks or months, then subsiding for a while or going into remission. Treatments are available to help you manage symptoms. And you can incorporate lifestyle habits and coping strategies to help you live better with psoriasis.” 

Now you can see why people might be lax to mention they have psoriasis. It almost appears as if you hadn’t been taking care of your personal hygiene, and no one enjoys looking at those sores. My father had it in large, constant patches, but I grew up seeing it on him and never questioned what it was or how he got it. Maybe that’s why I’m so open about having it myself. 

Oh, yes, latent. That just means it’s there, but it hasn’t made itself known yet. 

I went to WebMD for an explanation of the symptoms of psoriasis. 

“Plaques of red skin, often covered with silver-colored scales. These plaques may be itchy and painful, and they sometimes crack and bleed. In severe cases, the plaques will grow and merge, covering large areas. 

Disorders of the fingernails and toenails, including discoloration and pitting of the nails. The nails may also crumble or detach from the nail bed. 

Plaques of scales or crust on the scalp.” 

I remember a dermatologist telling me a long time ago that this skin disorder causes skin cells to produce 10 times faster than usual and asking me if I had psoriatic arthritis. I looked at him blankly. That resulted in a trip to the rheumatologist.  

Yes, that’s what I had. Arthritis.org was extremely clear about just what psoriatic arthritis [abbreviation: PsA] is: 

“Causes 

PsA (like psoriasis) is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing inflammation and pain and resulting in damage. Researchers aren’t sure why some people develop PsA. They think it’s a combination of having certain genes, which makes them more likely to develop the disease, and being triggered by something in the environment, like an infection, stress, physical trauma or another factor.  

Symptoms: 

Skin: 

Itchy, painful red patches or a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells; most commonly on the knees, elbows and scalp, although a rash can occur anywhere on the body. It is not contagious. [Gail here: same symptoms as psoriasis] 

Joints/Spine: 

Mainly occurs in the fingers (in the joints closest to the nail), wrists, ankles and knees. Symptoms such as pain, tenderness, warmth and swelling, may affect different sides of the body (right hand and left knee). This may be referred to as peripheral arthritis. Sometimes one entire, individual finger or toe will swell up, making it painful and hard to bend. This is referred to as dactylitis. Pain and stiffness in the low back, buttock can also occur. Sometimes the neck and hips are affected and this may be referred to as spondylitis or axial arthritis.  

Nails: 

Cracking, pitting, white spots and lifting from the nail bed can occur. This may be referred to as nail disease. 

Enthesis (plural, entheses): 

Inflammation and swelling of one or more entheses, which are the places in the body where a tendon or ligament connects with a bone. Common spots include at the back of the heel and the bottom of the foot. This is called enthesitis.  
 
Many people with psoriatic arthritis get very tired (fatigue) and some may have a low-grade fever. Symptoms may come and go. A period of increased inflammation and worsening of other symptoms is called a flare. A flare can last for days or months.”   

And now for the biggie- What does any of this have to do with CKD? 

“’Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease of the skin that causes inflammation throughout the entire body,’ says Dr. Aamir Memon, nephrologist on staff at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. ‘When you have an autoimmune disease, you have antibodies in your blood, which can deposit anywhere in the body, such as your heart and kidneys. The increased inflammation increases the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and organ damage.’ 

According to Dr. Memon, many patients with moderate to severe psoriasis take medications like Cyclosporine or Methotrexate as treatment. However, side effects from these medications include kidney problems. 

‘Since psoriasis has effects on the kidneys, it would intuitively make sense to control the inflammation to prevent further worsening of the kidneys,’ Dr Memon says. ‘Further studies are needed to evaluate if that is the case and as to what medications are best to decrease inflammation and prevent or halt kidney disease.’” 

Thank you to health enews at Advocate Aurora Health for the above information. This is a new site for me, so allow me to introduce you to them via their website: 

“health enews is the Midwest’s go-to source for timely, patient-centered and credible health news and information. Our goal is to provide readers with relevant and engaging articles and stories as part of our commitment to building healthy and informed communities across Illinois, Wisconsin and beyond. 

health enews is produced by a team of seasoned journalists and public affairs professionals from across Advocate Aurora Health.” 

From my 11 years of blogging about CKD, I’m beginning to accept that it is all connected. What happens to one part of the body does, indeed, affect the other parts of the body. Now you know how CKD and psoriasis are related, in case you’d ever wondered. 

You may have noticed there are no URLs in the blogs lately. Press control and click on the name of the organization instead. They are linked to the articles mentioned.

Until next week, 

Keep living your life!  

I’ve Been Compromised 

It’s true, and it’s not only me. It’s you, too, if you have Chronic Kidney Disease. ‘What do I mean?’ you ask. It’s your immune system that’s been compromised by your CKD. ‘HOW?’ you demand. That’s what today’s blog is going to explain.

Let’s start the usual way: at the beginning. So, what’s this immune system I mentioned? I turned to Medline Plus, a part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine which, in turn, is a division of the National Institutes of Health at https://medlineplus.gov/immunesystemanddisorders.html

“Your immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend against germs. It helps your body to recognize these ‘foreign’ invaders. Then its job is to keep them out, or if it can’t, to find and destroy them.”

According to the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/chronic-kidney-disease-and-pneumococcal-disease-do-you-know-facts,

“…Having kidney disease and kidney failure can weaken your immune system, making it easier for infections to take hold.  In fact, doctors and researchers have found that most infections, …, are worse in people with kidney disease.  People with a kidney transplant also have weakened immune systems.  This is because antirejection medicines (‘immunosuppressants’), which protect the body from rejecting the transplanted kidney, suppress the immune system.”

That makes sense. But exactly how does CKD compromise this system?

According to a British Society for Immunology study published in PubMed [“PubMed Central (PMC) is a free archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM),” as stated on their website. NCBI is The National Center for Biotechnology Information.] at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5904695/:

“The immune system and the kidneys are closely linked. In health the kidneys contribute to immune homeostasis, while components of the immune system mediate many acute forms of renal disease and play a central role in progression of chronic kidney disease. A dysregulated immune system can have either direct or indirect renal effects. Direct immune‐mediated kidney diseases are usually a consequence of autoantibodies directed against a constituent renal antigen, …. Indirect immune‐mediated renal disease often follows systemic autoimmunity with immune complex formation, but can also be due to uncontrolled activation of the complement pathways. Although the range of mechanisms of immune dysregulation leading to renal disease is broad, the pathways leading to injury are similar. Loss of immune homeostasis in renal disease results in perpetual immune cell recruitment and worsening damage to the kidney. Uncoordinated attempts at tissue repair, after immune‐mediated disease or non‐immune mediated injury, result in fibrosis of structures important for renal function, leading eventually to kidney failure.”

Hmmm, it seems my linking function is not working for this URL. No loss, just copy and paste the URL if you’d like to read more about the immune system and the kidneys.

There are a few medical terms in the above paragraph that you may need defined. Thank you, my all-time favorite dictionary, the Merriam-Webster, for helping us out here.

Antibodyany of a large number of proteins of high molecular weight that are produced normally by specialized B cells after stimulation by an antigen and act specifically against the antigen in an immune response, that are produced abnormally by some cancer cells, and that typically consist of four subunits including two heavy chains and two light chains

(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/antibody)

Antigenany substance (such as an immunogen or a hapten [Gail here: Bing defines this as “a small molecule which, when combined with a larger carrier such as a protein, can elicit the production of antibodies which bind specifically to it (in the free or combined state.]) foreign to the body that evokes an immune response either alone or after forming a complex with a larger molecule (such as a protein) and that is capable of binding with a product (such as an antibody or T cell) of the immune response

(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/antigen)

Autoantibodiesan antibody active against a tissue constituent of the individual producing it

(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/autoantibodies)

Fibrosisa condition marked by increase of interstitial fibrous tissue [Gail here: That’s not much help. In a word, fibrosis means scarring.]

(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fibrosis)

Renal: of, relating to, involving, or located in the region of the kidneys

(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/renal)

Oh, boy. Now what? Can we build up our immune system? WebMD’s slide show  at https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-strengthen-immunity offers some ways we can. To summarize this slide show:

  1. Avoid stress.
  2. Have sex more often (I love this one.)
  3. Get a pet.
  4. Be optimistic.
  5. Build your social network
  6. Laugh more.
  7. Eat colorful fruits and vegetables. (Within your kidney diet, of course.)
  8. Consider herbs and supplements. (Check with your nephrologist first.)
  9. Exercise.
  10. Sleep an adequate number of hours.
  11. Cut back on alcohol consumption.
  12. Stop smoking.
  13. Keep washing those hands.

Some doctors, such as  Dr. Suzanne Cassel, an immunologist at Cedars-Sinai, think we need to balance our immune systems rather than strengthen them. ” ‘You actually don’t want your immune system to be stronger, you want it to be balanced,’ Dr. Cassel says. ‘Too much of an immune response is just as bad as too little response.’

Dr. Cassel says most of the things people take to boost their immune system, such as vitamins or supplements, don’t have any effect on your immune response.”

Obviously, all doctors don’t agree. Whether you want to balance your immune system or strengthen it, the suggestions above will be helpful. Notice whether or not we’re in the middle of a pandemic, washing your hands frequently can help your immune system. Most of the suggestions from WebMD may be surprising to you since they are lifestyle changes and/or are the same ones suggested in general for CKD patients. There’s got to be something to them if they can both help with your CKD and your immune system. Why not try the suggestions you’re not already adhering to?

By the way, to the reader who asked why chocolate is not good for CKD patients, it’s loaded with potassium. In addition, many CKD patients also have diabetes. The sugar content in chocolate is not going to do them any good.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!