Psoriasis

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis, a skin disease, is also an autoimmune disorder.  It forms red, raised plaque-like scales on different areas of the body that can be irritating and inflamed. These areas of scaly patches can be itchy and, if scratched too hard, can burn and cause severe skin irritation. Psoriasis usually forms on a person’s knees, elbows or scalp, but can also appear any place where inflammation can occur. Psoriasis, sometimes mistaken as eczema, isn’t contagious. Psoriasis plaques are thicker due to the acceleration of the skin’s cellular turnover rate.  Eczema is likely caused by an allergic reaction, where psoriasis is caused by an internal immune response.

Psoriasis can be linked to genetics and a compromised immune system. To be diagnosed with psoriasis, a dermatologist needs to take a skin sample and have it tested.  The dermatologist will also go over family history to see whether there is a genetic link that could cause the psoriasis. The dermatologist would determine the type of treatment and medication depending on the severity of the outbreak. Psoriasis, though a topical skin disorder, has the ability to affect the body’s joints. This psoriatic arthritis, which mimics symptoms of arthritis, causes inflammation in areas where plaques have formed.

Fingernails are another area of the body that can be affected by psoriasis. The nail bed, which may lift and have a white or yellow film, can be brittle. Fingernails, which can break off easily, can also have a rough buildup, like the plaque on the skin.

There are factors that can trigger psoriasis flares, where the plaques become more irritating and aggravating. Weather, allergies, food and stress are all internal trigger factors. Certain medications and/or topical treatments can also cause inflammation to occur. Not all prescriptions work on psoriasis, though, so it may take a trial-and-error process before the right treatment effectively controls the psoriasis. There’s no cure for psoriasis, but it can be tolerated. As long as triggers are avoided, flare-ups happen less often.

For people who have undergone multiple treatments, prescription medications, different diets, light therapy, laser treatments and other approaches with no results, it’s important to understand that psoriasis is very difficult to treat and manage. People who suffer with psoriasis will sometimes try alternative methods of treatment, such as holistic healing, acupuncture, natural supplements and certain diets. Treating psoriasis topically alone won’t alleviate the symptoms or causes of the flares. Steroids and cortisones can be applied, but aren’t recommended for long-term treatment. Because psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, reducing internal inflammation can help prevent future flare-ups as can topical creams that reduce inflammation and protect the skin's water barrier. Petroleum-based moisturizers and those that contain mineral oil should be avoided. Skin moisturizers with anti-inflammatory ingredients like willow bark will help reduce inflammation and alleviate the itching.

As with any serious skin disorder, consult your doctor about treatment options that best suit your level of psoriasis and lifestyle. 

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