Making awareness contagious
May 29, 2009
If the extent of your knowledge of psoriasis is that it was one of the words on the National Spelling Bee on ESPN this week, it might be time to learn a little bit more.
And what better way to expand your knowledge than to get outside, get some exercise, and support psoriasis research at the same time.
The first National Psoriasis Walk for Awareness in Utah will be held Saturday, June 6, at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. The 1K (0.62 mile) and 5K (3.1 mile) walks, sponsored by the National Psoriasis Foundation, will help spread awareness about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and raise funds for education, advocacy and research.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes scaly red patches on the skin. It affects people of all ages and often has a debilitating effect on the person’s physical and emotional quality of life. Psoriasis can also lead to psoriatic arthritis, an inflammatory disease that causes pain, stiffness and swelling in and around the joints, as well as other serious diseases.
The National Psoriasis Foundation is a nonprofit patients’ advocacy group that seeks to make a difference in the way people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are treated and perceived. Psoriasis affects an estimated 7.5 million Americans, including thousands in Utah.
Dr. Kristina Callis Duffin, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center, lives in Park City and has focused much of her career on psoriasis research. "Psoriasis is a significant disorder that affects two to three percent of the population — it’s definitely common," she says. "I think there are probably a lot of people out there who have given up hope or don’t know that there are new treatments available, and that’s why we are doing this walk for awareness."
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Callis Duffin will speak at the walk about the foundation and ongoing research projects such as the Utah Psoriasis Initiative, a study she is co-directing that is aimed at identifying the genes that cause the disease. The cause of psoriasis is unknown, although most researchers agree that it involves a genetic predisposition and can be triggered by a variety of factors including infection, stress, trauma or injury to the skin.
So far, Callis Duffin and her fellow researchers have analyzed the DNA of 1,000 patients and confirmed seven genetic markers that are associated with the development of psoriasis. "The more we know about what’s going on in the pathology of the disease, the better we can develop treatments for it and hopefully ultimately get to a cure," she says.
Starting in July, Callis Duffin will provide a general dermatology clinic on Thursday afternoons at the Redstone Health Center in Park City. For more information or to make an appointment, call (435) 658-9200.
Those who would like to participate in the walk may register in advance or on the day of the event starting at 8 a.m. The walk begins at 9 a.m. Walkers may sign up as individuals or join a team and are encouraged to raise money through tax-deductible donations prior to the walk. Those who raise $100 or more will receive a T-shirt.
Those who prefer not to walk may sponsor the event, make a donation or volunteer at the walk. The event will also feature live entertainment, family-friendly activities and vendor tables. For more information or to register for the walk, visit http://www.psoriasis.org/walk .