An autoimmune skin disorder, psoriasis is a condition that accelerates the production of skin cells. Typically, it takes a few weeks for the skin to create new cells, however, in psoriasis, the immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy skin cells and rapidly generates new skin cells. This accumulation of extra skin cells forms scaly, inflamed patches that are itchy and at times painful.
Here some signs that are commonly observed:
- Red, tender skin covered with thick, white-silvery scales
- Dry skin that may crack and bleed
- Tiny scaling spots
- Itchy skin
- Burning sensation in the affected areas
- Pitted nails
- Stiff and swollen joints
Not every patient will suffer from all the symptoms mentioned above. Their frequency and intensity will vary according to each patient’s coping mechanism and immunity. Most people will suffer from psoriatic flare-up cycles. i.e., periods during which the symptoms aggravate and can last for days or a few weeks. Then they might subside for a time or go into a complete state of remission.
The exact cause of psoriasis isn’t discovered yet. But experts believe that an overactive immune system might be responsible for it. Such unusual behavior could possibly be due to genetics or environmental factors. However, when one has psoriasis, they should closely observe their triggers and avoid them. Here are some common triggers that can initiate the condition of psoriasis or its flare-ups:
- Strep throat
- Skin infections
- Unwarranted intake of alcohol
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Injury to the skin such as scrapes, cuts or bug bites
- Severe sunburn
- Certain medications, especially the ones used to treat bipolar disorder or high blood pressure
Although anyone can develop this skin disease, the following factors can amplify its risk:
- A family history of psoriasis
- Chronic stress
- Viral and bacterial infections
Diagnosis and treatment
For diagnosing psoriasis, the dermatologist will conduct a simple physical exam and inquire about the patient’s symptoms, medical and family history. In some cases, the doctor might also take a tiny sample of the skin for a biopsy. This is mostly done to rule out the possibilities of other diseases.
The treatment for psoriasis focuses on clearing the symptoms as well as minimizing the flare-up patterns. Here are some common treatments used for managing psoriasis symptoms.
- Topical treatments
To treat mild to moderate psoriasis, topical treatments are used in the form of creams, ointments, face washes and shampoos. These include Vitamin D analogues, topical corticosteroids and retinoids, calcineurin inhibitors, coal tar, salicylic acid and OTC moisturizers.
- Light therapy
In this form of treatment, the doctor might recommend the use of natural sunlight or artificial UV light to ease the symptoms. UVB light therapy, Goeckerman therapy, psoralen plus ultraviolet A (PUVA), excimer laser and narrowband UVB phototherapy are some of the common procedures that are implemented for psoriasis.
- Prescribed drugs
If the person is dealing with a severe form of psoriasis, the doctor might recommend the use of retinoids, immunosuppressants and biologics. However, these are only taken for a short course to bring the symptoms under control. It is important to remember that such drugs shouldn’t be taken without the dermatologist’s approval.
Along with medications, one should also ensure adopting good lifestyle habits that include a healthy diet and regular workout. Moreover, if coping with psoriasis is leading to emotional stress, then one should join a support group or talk to a therapist to solve mental challenges.