The Basics of Psoriasis – Common Symptoms and Treatment Options
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes a buildup of skin cells, resulting in lesions. It’s a chronic disease attributed to genetic factors that affect the immune system and result in excess skin cell production. Usually, the growth of skin cells occurs underneath the dermis. The cells then rise to the surface and after a month or so, fall off. In a person with psoriasis, this cycle only takes several days. Rather than fight infections, the white blood cells attack the skin cells, which speeds up skin cell production. It means that new cells rise to the surface before the old ones are shed, hence the accumulation. The faster the buildup, the more severe the condition.
How psoriasis manifests itself varies from one individual to the next. Patches of raised skin are common signs, and due to inflammation, the area can turn red. In plaque psoriasis, the most common kind, the skin lesions form silvery scaling. These rashes can appear anywhere, but certain areas are more prone, such as the elbows, knees, knuckles, scalp, and lower back. Inverse psoriasis is when skin lesions appear in places with skin folds such as behind the knees and inside the elbows.
Skin lesions and plaques can be itchy and painful. In severe cases, dry skin can break and bleed. Scratching the dry skin contributes to breakage. Some people can also have swollen and painful joints. In some instances, psoriasis can even affect the fingernails and toenails, with pitting and discolouration being common symptoms. In severe cases of the disease, the nails can come off the nail bed.
Psoriasis symptoms typically present themselves in cycles in most people. Symptoms show up for a while and then after several days or weeks, dissipate. Usually, certain conditions can cause the disease to flare up. The frequency of flare-ups depends on the person and triggers. When the signs go away, it indicates remission but not a cure, meaning that the condition could return.
Triggers of Psoriasis
Some elements can activate the condition and influence the degree of the symptoms. These factors are triggers, and they vary among individuals. A person with psoriasis should understand their specific triggers and watch out for them. Some common ones include:
Weather – harsh weather that affects the skin, specifically when it is cold and dry. These conditions can worsen psoriasis symptoms. High humidity and a bit of sun can give relief to dry skin, reducing the risks of a flare-up.
Stress – Extreme stress is a common trigger in many people living with psoriasis. Relaxation techniques can help reduce flare-ups.
Smoking – Both first- and second-hand smoking can worsen psoriasis, contribute to the progression of the disease and affect its response to treatment.
Alcohol – According to studies, high alcohol consumption is a risk factor for psoriasis, especially in young men. Alcohol can also react with psoriasis drugs, causing other complications.
Infection – Psoriasis can flare up during an infection because the body’s immune system is already hard at work.
Some medication such as anti-malarial drugs, lithium and high blood pressure medicine can activate psoriasis in some people.
Treatment of Psoriasis
No cure exists for this autoimmune skin disease, but it is manageable. The available psoriasis treatments aim to decrease inflammation and the production of skin cells. Before prescribing a treatment, a doctor will usually factor in the kind of psoriasis and its extent. For mild to moderate psoriasis, topical treatments are suitable. They consist of lotions, creams and sprays that you have to apply to the skin. In cases where the condition is too resistant to topical treatments alone, a doctor can prescribe steroid injections.
Systemic medications and light therapy are recommended for psoriasis cases that affect more than 10% of the body. With systemic drugs, you can get injections or oral medication. This particular treatment is used for arthritis psoriasis because it prevents the progression of the disease, which can affect the joints. Light therapy works by killing white blood cells using natural and ultraviolet light.
Psoriasis treatment combinations are standard in instances where one type doesn’t provide sufficient relief.