Tulane Health System dermatologist Dr. Erin Boh was recently named the Outstanding Physician/Clinician of the Year by the National Psoriasis Foundation for her tireless efforts to help patients and advance new treatments for the chronic autoimmune disease.

With more than 28 years’ experience in dermatology, Dr. Boh is one of the nation’s foremost experts in treating and managing psoriasis, which affects more than 8 million people in the U.S. The immune-mediated disease causes red, scaly and often itchy patches on the skin when the immune system triggers skin cells into overdrive to grow at an abnormally fast rate.

Dr. Boh participates in a number of clinical research projects involving psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis and lymphoma. She started a psoriatic disease teaching program at the Tulane University School of Medicine, created a successful clinical trials unit and authored many chapters in dermatology textbooks about the disease. She’s also an outstanding advocate for psoriatic patients.

Psoriasis, which is often exacerbated by stress or environmental triggers, is notoriously difficult to treat. Topical ointments can lose their effectiveness over time and most advanced psoriasis medications are expensive and not always covered by insurance plans, Dr. Boh said.

“The bulk of patients with psoriasis unfortunately do not get the appropriate treatment,” she said. “Most get topical steroids, and they're either not educated to know that there are other treatments available or their doctors just don't want to do it.”

Within the last decade, there has been a revolution in psoriasis care with an influx of new oral treatments and biologic drugs on the market that target the immune system.

“It has been breakthrough after breakthrough,” Dr. Boh said. “We have a number of drugs that target different pathways within the immunologic cell activation pathway, so we're able to block different pathways and shut off the process of psoriasis.”

These powerful immunosuppressive drugs treat the underlying cause of psoriasis, but they require patients to be closely monitored for side effects.

“If you have a patient with psoriasis, it takes time to figure out the type of psoriasis they have, what treatments they've been on and what's the best treatment for them. And then you have to also throw in the mix what the insurance will cover,” Dr. Boh said. “Sometimes you make that decision, and then it will take 12, 15 or 18 hours of work just to get that approved.”

Getting psoriasis under control is about much more than just clear skin. Psoriasis is associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and depression. People with moderate to severe psoriasis – which means they have greater than 5 percent of their body affected – and who are never treated die on average four to five years sooner than those who do not have the disease, Dr. Boh said.

“Systemic inflammation is detrimental to the liver, to the heart and all kinds of things,” she said. “Psoriasis is not just a skin disease. It really is a systemic disease that just happens to have a marker on the skin.”

For more information about psoriasis or the Tulane Dermatology Clinic, please visit Tulane Healthcare.