Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales. It is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system sends faulty inflammatory signals (cytokines) telling the skin cells (keratinocytes) to grow more quickly. Skin cells are normally made and replaced every three to four months, but in psoriasis this process only lasts about three to seven days. The resulting build-up of skin cells is what creates the patches associated with psoriasis.
Psoriasis appears to have a both a genetic and an environmental component. It’s relatively common and usually occurs between the ages of 15 and 35. The condition affects men and women equally. The condition is not contagious so it cannot be spread from person to person.
There are different types of psoriasis, the most common being plaque, where thick, red patches of skin are covered by flaky, silver-white scales. They can occur anywhere on your body, including your genitals and the soft tissue inside your mouth. You may have just a few plaques or many, and in severe cases, the skin around your joints may crack and bleed.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms start or become worse because of a certain event, known as a trigger. Possible triggers include an injury to your skin, throat infections and using certain medicines. Psoriasis is a chronic disease that usually has remission and relapses in symptoms. Symptoms include:
- Red, flaky skin patches on your elbows, knees, scalp and lower back
- Itchiness or soreness of patches
- Tenderness, pain and swelling in the joints and connective tissue (psoriatic arthritis).
The severity of psoriasis varies greatly. Some people find it just a minor irritation, while others find it a major impact on their quality of life.
Getting a diagnosis
Your GP can make a psoriasis diagnosis just by visual inspection. Your doctor will consider where the raised, red, scales appear, if they have well-defined edges, and how the rash responds to medication when making a diagnosis. Your doctor also will want to learn about your family history due to the genetic component of psoriasis.
Although psoriasis is just a minor irritation for some people, the condition can sometimes have a significant impact on your life. Speak to your GP or healthcare team if you have psoriasis and you have any concerns about your physical and mental wellbeing.They can offer advice and further treatment if necessary. There are also a number of support groups for people with psoriasis.
There’s no cure for psoriasis, but there are various treatments to successfully control it. In most cases, topical treatments to apply to the skin, such as vitamin D analogues or corticosteroid creams and ointments, reduce psoriasis. If these are ineffective, phototherapy treatment, where you are exposed to certain types of ultraviolet light, may be used. In severe cases, systemic treatments may be used. These are oral or injected medicines that work throughout the whole body.
Integrative medicine (combining conventional and alternative medicine) can help by addressing related issues such as the balance of healthy gut bacteria, food allergies, yeast infections, and hypothyroidism. With in-depth testing and by studying the results, individual protocols can be provided to ensure effective treatment of psoriasis.
The following natural medicines are proven helpful:
- Vitamin D supplementation inhibit the increase of skin cells
- Omega-3 fatty acids increase skin health and reduce psoriasis-affected areas
- Polypodium Leukotomos significantly reduces sun-induced skin damage and psoriasis symptoms
- Multivitamins and minerals (vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B12, selenium, zinc, chromium, vitamin C, and riboflavin) increase nutrient-levels to improve psoriasis.
- Aloe Vera to soothe and moisturise skin, and ease pain.
- Quercetin & milk thistle extract have anti-inflammatory effects
Further, a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet may help reduce the likelihood of diseases that psoriasis co-occurs with such as heart disease, cancer and metabolic syndrome. The following may help:
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding triggers like alcohol, smoking, stress, excessive sun exposure, insect bites, infections, burns and certain medications
- Eliminating common food allergens (e.g. fish, shell fish, eggs, soya, dairy)
- Avoiding trans fats, excessive omega-6 fats, sugar, grains, refined carbohydrates and alcohol
- Having a low calorie/weight loss diet
- Regularly bathing in warm water and applying deep-moisturising cream
- Using sunscreen frequently daily
- Protecting skin from rough clothing and irritants
- Keeping your environment cool, with stable temperature and humidity