What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a noncontagious chronic autoimmune condition that causes skin cells to multiply much faster. This speeds up the normal cycle in which skin cells are produced.
This normal process starts in the dermis where the skin cells generate. For about 30 days, skin cells rise to the surface and they fall off. Instead, the process with psoriasis could happen in just a few days and the skin does not have time to fall off and then build up, forming red patches covered by white scales. They can itch, burn or sting. These patches can also crack and bleed.
The scaling on the skin is commonly developed on joints, like elbows and knees, but also in hands, feets, scalp, neck, lower back and the face.
Psoriasis affects an estimated 2-4% of the western population, this percentage varies according to age, region and ethnicity. It is more common in people with European descent than Asian. And the cost of treatment for this disease is estimated as high as $32.5 billion in the United States.
Types of Psoriasis
- Plaque Psoriasis: it is the most common form of psoriasis (around 85 to 90% of people diagnosed with psoriasis suffer from plaque psoriasis), it causes red inflamed patches in the skin covered with white- silverish scales.
- Guttate psoriasis: it is characterized by numerous papules (drop like scaly skin lessons of pink/red color). These are much smaller and less thick than plaque psoriasis.
- Napkin psoriasis: is common in infants and characterized by red papules with silver scales that start in the diaper area and can spread to the torso and limbs.
- Pustular psoriasis: causes white, pus-filled blisters (pustules) and the skin surrounding the pustules is red and tender. This type of psoriasis is usually located in smaller areas of the body (hands and feet) but it can spread throughout the body.
- Inverse psoriasis: it usually affects skin folds, like around the genitals, armpits, between the buttock, under the breast, etc. This one appears as red shiny inflamed areas of smooth skin.
- Erythrodermic psoriasis: is very rare and severe. It usually covers more than 90% of the body. It involves inflammation and exfoliation of the skin in large areas that look almost sunburn and it is accompanied by swelling, dryness, itching and pain. This can be lethal as the extreme damage on the skin can disrupt the body’s ability to regulate temperature and perform barrier functions.
The cause of psoriasis is not fully understood, but there are several factors that increase the risk of having psoriasis, such as genetics, stress, and medications.
- Genetics: psoriasis has a strong hereditary component, but even though many genes are associated with it, how these genes work together is unclear.
- Lifestyle: There are several factors that can worsen the disease like smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, stress, climate, and season changes.
- Medications: certain medications like beta blockers, antimalarial, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, among others.
Steroidal withdrawal: abrupt interruption of steroids intake can cause symptoms to flare.
It is important to note that you cannot get psoriasis by swimming in a pool with someone with psoriasis, touching someone with psoriasis, or having intercourse with someone with psoriasis. Psoriasis is not contagious, you cannot catch it from someone.
A physical exam is usually enough for a doctor to diagnose psoriasis as symptoms for psoriasis are evident and easy to distinguish from other skin conditions. But if these are unclear or similar in appearance to other skin conditions (like eczema, seborrheic eczema, pityriasis rosea, or cutaneous T-cell lymphoma) a skin biopsy or scrapping could be necessary to confirm whether you have psoriasis and what type.
There is no cure for psoriasis though many treatment options exist depending on the severity of the disease.
- Corticosteroid medications are the most effective when used continuously, with stronger medication offering greater benefits.
- Vitamin D analogues were found more effective than placebo especially in combination with corticosteroid.
- Moisturizer and some emollients can help with psoriasis. They can contribute to clearing psoriatic plaques.
Special lamps have been developed for this treatment. This procedure consists of exposing the skin to UV light. The exposure time, however, should be controlled and be determined by a person’s skin type to avoid overexposure and burning of the skin. Another problem that arises with this therapy is that exposure to UV light increases the risk of melanoma and carcinomas. Caution is recommended for people who are susceptible to skin cancer.
When psoriasis is severe or there is a lack of response to other treatments, systemic treatments with medications or injections may be suggested. These usually carry severe side effects and are prescribed for short periods of time. This medications include Methotrexate, (which can cause liver diseases, lung problems and leukopenia), retinoids (they come in creams, pills, foams, lotions and can have side effects especially in birth so it is not recommended to women who are pregnant or plan to be) and medications that target T cells (efalizumab and alefacept).
Biological treatment that blocks the immune systems (overactive in psoriasis) may prove to be successful in treatments. The most effective are ixekizumab, secukinumab, brodalumab, guselkumab certolizumab and ustekinumab, according to meta analysis done in 2020.
In most cases people experience mild skin lessons that can be treated effectively, but can still affect the quality of life of the person infected and those around. Depending on the location of outbreaks the person can experience discomfort, itching and pain that can affect sleep, sport activities, etc., especially if they are located in hands or feet.
People with psoriasis seem to be more at risk of having diabetes, celiac disease, hypertension and death from cardiovascular events. The rates of Crohn disease and ulcerative colitis are also higher in comparison with the general population. The chances of different cancers in lungs, gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, liver and pancreas are greater than those without the disease.
Natural Remedies for Psoriasis At Home
- If your scalp itches, apply apple cider vinegar twice a week for a quick relief. Rinse it off afterwards to avoid irritation. If your scalp is bleeding or cracked, do not use this recipe.
- When you take a bath, put Epsom or Dead Sea salts in your tub with warm water. Stay for 15 minutes and apply a moisturizer later. You can also oats in your bath to soothe your skin.
- Consume turmeric in meals or as a supplement since it may cut down psoriasis flare-ups.
- Use a shampoo with Tea Tree Oil to get relief. It may help psoriasis on your scalp.
- Get some sunlight every day, for 10 minutes. Use sunscreen when you are outdoors to prevent sunburn.
- At bedtime, put cream on your skin and cover the area with plastic wrap, which seals the moisturizer so your skin can absorb it. Use aloe vera gel or cream with 0.5% in it on your skin (aloe vera is anti-inflammatory and reduces redness).
- Use a heavy cream with petroleum jelly to help heal the skin, reduce redness and itching.
- Implement a Mediterranean diet, focused on veggies, fish, fruits, and wholegrains. It might lower your symptoms.
Thanks for reading. We hope this information was useful.