Psoriasis is a non-contagious skin condition that is manifested through red or purple, dry, scaly and itchy patches in the skin. These abnormal skin patches are a long-term autoimmune condition and can emerge as five different types and is most commonly seen on the forearms, shins, around the navel and on the scalp. The symptoms can vary greatly between individuals, where most will experience mild symptoms and others will have more severe such. The symptoms also fluctuate between lighter and more severe states.
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What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that is mainly coming from a genetic predisposition, but is triggered by environmental factors. It is caused by the fast production of skin cells in the affected areas, where the cells are replaced about every 3-5 days compared to the normal skin where it is replaced about one time a month. The DNA released from the dying cells are what causes the inflammatory reaction in the affected areas.
This condition can be manifested in five different forms, with plaque psoriasis being the most common form accounting to almost 90% of all cases.1 This common form is revealed as red, scaly patches and often emerge on elbows, knees, scalp and on the back.
The other forms are;
- Guttate, that gives you drop-shaped lesions is often triggered by streptococcal infection;
- Inverse, red patches in skin folds such as around the genitals and in armpits;
- Pustular, pus-filled blisters surrounded by red, tender skin areas;
- And erythrodermic, a peeling rash across the entire body.
Erythrodermic psoriasis is often a result of an exacerbated state of the plaque condition and causes the skin all over the body to become inflamed and to peel off, often together with extreme dryness, pain and swelling. This condition can be very harmful and in worst cases fatal, since the body’s ability to regulate temperature is inhibited.
Psoriasis can also affect the nails of fingers and toes, which can leave dents and changes of colour.
Can I be affected?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that is mainly due to a genetic predisposition but is triggered by environmental factors. Approximately 2% of the population is affected by this skin condition and will often emerge in adulthood. Some things that can trigger an outbreak, such as colder weather, certain medications, infections and psychological stress. Some conditions that lead to an increased rate or severity of psoriasis are:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
Lifestyle triggers have also been reported to worsen the condition, such as contact with hot water, scratching the itchy skin lesions, dry skin, high alcohol consumption as well as obesity. Men and women are equally affected, but people living far away from the equator seem to run a higher risk of contracting the condition.
There are two types of psoriasis, one that is linked to a family history of psoriasis and will start before the age of 40, whilst the other is not linked to any family history and is often manifested after the age of 40. The first is more common than the second.
If you have psoriasis, you also run a greater risk of suffering from psoriatic arthritis, lymphomas, cardiovascular diseases, Chron’s disease and depression.
The diagnosis of psoriasis is done through examination of the affected area since no blood tests or other diagnostic measures are normally needed. A skin biopsy, or a skin sample, can be taken to make sure that the diagnosis is correct.
There is no ultimate cure for psoriasis, so the treatment is mainly focused on relieving the symptoms. There are topical medications, but some solutions also include light therapy and system treatments.
One efficient way of treating psoriasis is through using a steroid or vitamin D3 creams, which works for approximately 75% of patients. These come in different strengths and are most effective when used together and can be applied in a size of the fingertip. Many of the different creams and ointments are non-prescription, but to get your hand on the more potent ones you will have to consult a doctor to get a prescription. This is the case with the most effective medications such as Dioderm, Hydromol, Metosyn or Synalar. Some forms of the condition can also be treated with moisturizers.
The use of UVB light has been used for psoriasis for a long time. The lamps should be used with a timer system, in order to not overexpose the skin. The problem is that it can be hard to access a proper UVB facility. Many go to commercial tanning salons to treat their psoriasis, but these often primarily use UVA light, which might affect the condition. There is also a heightened risk of skin cancer.
Other medication includes ultraviolet light, which inhibits the fast production of skin cells in the affected area. This therapy too is connected so certain forms of cancer.
One suggested therapy is to bathe in mineral water daily, more specifically in the Dead Sea – this might at a first look seem excessive, but has been proven to greatly mitigate the symptoms and keep them at bay for several months.2
An alternative to the treatments mentioned above is immune system suppressing medicines. These affect the body at large, and a patient undertaking this treatment must have regular blood and liver tests to make sure everything is as it should. Since these medicines inhibit the immune system, the risk for infections is increased. One common medicine is the active ingredient methotrexate.
As an alternative to medication affecting the entire system, there are biologics. They are designed in a similar fashion but are created to target only specific parts of the immune system, in this case, the part that causes psoriasis. This medicine is put in action if no other treatment has worked.