Psoriasis: Causes and Treatment

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes cells to develop rapidly on the skin. This overgrowth can lead to thick, scaly plaques that may itch or cause discomfort. This causes cells to build up on the skin surface, forming thick patches or plaques of red sores (lesion) covered with flaky, silvery white dead skin cells (scales)

Types

There are several different types of psoriasis. These vary depending on the appearance of the scales and their location on the body. It may occur at any age but it is most common between the ages of 15 and 50 yrs.

 Men, women and children of all skin colors can be affected.

Signs and symptoms

  • Red patches of skin covered with thick, silvery scales.
  • Small scaling spots (commonly seen in children)
  • Dry, cracked skin that may bleed or itch.
  • Itching, burning or soreness.
  • Thickened, pitted or ridged nails.
  • Swollen and stiff joints.

What causes psoriasis?

No one knows the exact cause of psoriasis, but experts believe that it’s a combination of things. 

Something wrong with the immune system causes inflammation, triggering new skin cells to form too quickly. 

Normally, skin cells are replaced every 10 to 30 days. With this disease, new cells grow every 3 to 4 days. The buildup of old cells being replaced by new ones creates those silver scales.

It tends to run in families, but it may be skip generations. For instance, a grandfather and their grandson may be affected, but not the child’s mother.

Does psoriasis damage organs?

Inflammation caused by it can impact other organs and tissues in the body. People with this disease may also experience other health conditions. One in three people with psoriasis may also develop psoriatic arthritis Signs of arthritis  include swelling, stiffness and pain in the joints and areas surrounding the joints. It often goes undiagnosed, particularly in its milder forms. However, it’s important to treat early on to help avoid permanent joint damage.

How do you diagnose?

Physical examination

Doctors are able to make a diagnosis with a simple physical exam. Symptoms of psoriasis are typically evident and easy to distinguish from other conditions that may cause similar symptoms.

Biopsy

The doctor will take a small sample of skin. This is known as a  biopsy. The skin will be sent to a lab, where it’ll be examined under a microscope. The examination can diagnose the type of psoriasis you have. It can also rule out other possible disorders or infections.

 Psoriasis treatment 

This skin condition has no cure. Treatments aim to reduce inflammation and scales, slow the growth of skin cells, and remove plaques.

Doctor will decide on a treatment plan based on:

  • Severity of the rash.
  • Where the rash is on your body.
  • Your age.
  • Your overall health.

Topical treatments

Creams and ointments applied directly to the skin can be helpful for reducing mild to moderate disease. Topical treatments include:

  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Topical retinoids
  • Anthralin
  • Vitamin D analogues
  • Salicylic acid
  • Moisturizer

Systemic medications

People with moderate to severe psoriasis, and those who haven’t responded well to other treatment types, may need to use oral or injected medications. Many of these medications have severe side effects. Doctors usually prescribe them for short periods of time.

These medications include:

  • Methotrexate
  • Cyclosporine
  • Biologics
  • Retinoids

Phototherapy

Phototherapy involves regularly exposing the skin to certain lights and lasers under medical supervision. The light can slow down cell growth, suppress immune activity, and reduce irritation. Phototherapy kills the overactive white blood cells that are attacking healthy skin cells which is the reason for the rapid cell growth. 

Both UVA and UVB light may be helpful in reducing symptoms of mild to moderate disease.

Trigger factors for psoriasis

A triggering event may cause a change in the immune system, resulting in the onset of symptoms.

These triggers vary from person to person.  What may worsen your psoriasis might not have any impact on someone else. Some of the Common triggers are listed below

Stress

Stress is one of the most common triggers, Unusually high stress may trigger a flare-up. If you learn to reduce and manage your stress, you can reduce and possibly prevent flare-ups.

Alcohol

Heavy alcohol use can trigger psoriasis flare-ups. excessively drinking alcohol can cause psoriasis outbreaks more frequent. 

Infection

Psoriasis is caused, at least in part, by the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy skin cells. If you’re sick or battling an infection, your immune system will go into overdrive to fight the infection. This might start another flare-up. Strep throat is a common trigger.

Injury

An accident, cut, or scrape may trigger a flare-up. Shots, vaccines, and sunburns can also trigger a new outbreak.

Medications

Some medications are considered psoriasis triggers. These medications include:

  • Lithium
  • Antimalarial medications
  • High blood pressure medications

Weather

 Cold weather can often cause psoriasis flares due to less sunlight and humidity, heated and drier indoor air. 

Warm weather can often improve this condition because of natural sunlight and higher humidity.

Life with psoriasis

Psoriasis can impact your life in many ways.  The itch and appearance of may get in the way of your life. Lifestyle changes may help to ease symptoms of this condition and reduce flare-ups.

Stress

Stress is a well-established trigger for psoriasis. Learning to manage and cope with stress may help you reduce flare-ups and ease symptoms. Try the following to reduce your stress:

Meditation

Yoga

exercise

Skin care

  • Avoid harsh soaps
  • Use moisturizer regularly, especially after bathing.
  • Use medicated shampoo for scales on your scalp.
  • Use psoriasis friendly skin care
  • keeping the skin moisturized and avoiding hot, prolonged showers.

Diet recommendations for people with psoriasis

Food can’t cure or even treat psoriasis, but eating better might reduce your symptoms. The lifestyle changes may help ease symptoms of psoriasis and reduce flare-ups

The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends that people with the condition eat a varied, healthy diet that includes:

  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Prioritizing lean protein sources, such as chicken breast
  • Eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Avoiding pro-inflammatory foods, such as simple carbohydrates and saturated fats

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