What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder with no cure. It is caused by a combination of immune, genetic, and environmental factors. It commonly affects more than one family member.
What Causes Psoriasis?
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown. If you have psoriasis, your skin cells grow faster than normal due to cytokines released by T-cells. The body naturally develops new skin cells every month to replace skin that sheds or flakes off. With psoriasis, new skin cells form within days rather than weeks. This rapid growth causes dead skin cells to accumulate on the skin’s surface. The redness is from the increased blood supply required for the increased growth of cells.
How do I know if I will be affected by Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is not contagious. However, the condition may run in families. Risk factors for psoriasis include:
- A family history of the condition.
- Having a viral or bacterial infection.
- It can also be triggered or worsened by uncontrolled stress, smoking, obesity and use of certain medications, such as those used to treat bipolar disorder and high blood pressure.
What Does Psoriasis Look Like?
There are five types of psoriasis,
Plaque-type is the most common.
The accumulation of dead cells on the skin results in well-demarcated areas of thickened, red or salmon pink itchy plaques, often covered with silvery scales.
Lesions are symmetrically distributed, often involving the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back.
Guttate psoriasis refers to a special type of psoriasis where the lesions occur rapidly. It is commonly associated with underlying infection especially Streptococcal infection.
Psoriasis can cause nail abnormalities like multiple tiny pits or brittle ugly looking nails.
What other Areas can Psoriasis Affect?
Psoriasis can increase your risk for other illnesses. Some people develop psoriatic arthritis, which can cause severe joint damage. You’ll need to see a rheumatologist for treatment if your dermatologist suspects this type of psoriasis.
You also have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and celiac disease amongst others.
Because psoriasis can develop anywhere on the body and become a widespread problem, you may also deal with periods of low self-esteem, social isolation, and depression.
What Can Make Psoriasis Worse?
- Smoking and drinking alcohol tend to increase the severity of psoriasis as well as negatively affect response to treatment.
- Emotional stress can contribute to the initial onset of psoriasis and flares of the existent condition.
- Skin trauma caused by scratching, sunburn and viral infection may make exasperated psoriasis.
- Certain medications like steroid injections can worsen the disease.
How is Psoriasis diagnosed?
Psoriasis can be diagnosed by skin examination. Occasionally, a skin biopsy or scraping may be taken to rule out other disorders. There is no blood test to diagnose psoriasis.
How do you Treat Psoriasis?
There is no cure for psoriasis, but with treatment, you can reduce inflammation and skin irritation. Some treatment options are described below.
Topical Therapy for Psoriasis
Your doctor may prescribe creams or ointments for your skin or scalp. These can include:
- A combination of topical corticosteroids and vitamin D analogues
- Calcineurin inhibitors for sensitive areas
- Keratolytics to peel off the thick scales eg. Salicylic acid
- A tar-based formulation that reduces the fast growth of skin cells
Light Therapy for Psoriasis
Light therapy exposes skin to artificial ultraviolet light under medical supervision that helps to slow the growth of new skin cells. You may need to attend your clinic 2 -3 times a week for this treatment to see results.
Are There Medications to Help with Psoriasis?
If your psoriasis is severe or doesn’t respond to other treatments, the dermatologist may prescribe medications to suppress your immune system. These will require the taking of a blood sample and close monitoring.
How Can You Prevent Psoriasis?
There is no way to prevent psoriasis. You can reduce flare-ups by following your doctor’s treatment plan and recommendations as well as by avoiding common triggers like stress and smoking.
Psoriasis is a lifelong condition that doesn’t have to negatively affect your quality of life. If you have any symptoms as mentioned above, talk to your doctor today. If you have Psoriasis and it affects your mood and emotions, you need to consult your doctor.