Kardashian has psoriasis – what is it?
July 25th, 2011
11:46 AM ET

Kardashian has psoriasis – what is it?

Kim Kardashian learned she has psoriasis in an episode of  “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” that aired Sunday.

Alarmed after finding red, itchy patches on her legs, Kardashian heads to the dermatologist.  Dr. Harold Lancer takes one look at the scaly rash and determines she has psoriasis, a common skin disease that causes skin to dry and form itchy spots.

The severity of psoriasis depends on the person – some people can be covered in these patches; other cases can be associated with arthritis.  For others, it’s just a small nuisance.

“I cannot have psoriasis,” Kardashian tells her dermatologist on the show.

Health.com: Living with the stigma of psoriasis

It turns out Kardashian’s mother, Kris Jenner also has psoriasis.  It’s largely believed to be genetic and related to the immune system.

“I’ve heard of it before, because my mom has always had it.  She didn’t have red flaky dots all over,” Kardashian said.

A type of white blood cell called a T cell fights off infections in the body.  T cells attack healthy skin cells in a person with psoriasis, according to Mayo Clinic. When the dead skin cells and white blood cells can't clear, they form rash.  Researchers believe genetics and environmental factors may trigger the T cells.

“It’s not curable, because you can’t alter the genetics,” Lancer said.

Kardashian’s face falls.

“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.”

Health.com: How to have a happy sex life when you have psoriasis

Treatments such as topical creams, light therapy and medications can reduce the symptoms in some people.  The patches can flare up because of infections, stress, cold weather, smoking and heavy alcohol consumption.

Lancer tells her, “the No. 1 way to help yourself is lead an easier, slower pace life.”

Kardashian blogged that her sister “Khloe freaks me out saying it’s ringworm, but it turns out I have psoriasis!! My mom has had psoriasis for years, so it’s good that I can talk to her about it.”

Health.com: How to take care of psoriasis at home

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Filed under: Autoimmune disorder

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.