Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition of the skin, in which the skin cells multiply approximately ten times faster than normal. The time that it takes for a normal skin cell to form and reach the surface is roughly 25 to 30 days, yet the skin cycle for psoriasis skin cells can be as short as 4 days. Patients can experience intense itch, swelling and pain. Psoriasis can also lead to anxiety, especially when others mistake their condition for a contagious one.
There are a few subtypes of psoriasis, including plaque, nail, guttate, pustular, erythrodermic and inverse psoriasis. Out of these categories, the most common is plaque psoriasis, making up roughly 80% of psoriasis cases. This form is characterised by dry plaques with silvery-white scales.
Although psoriasis cannot be cured, it can be well-controlled with proper medical treatment and professional help.
Signs and symptoms
- Burning, itching sensation
- Red, swollen patches
- Dry, silvery plaques
- Cracks in the skin that might bleed
- Small red rash with scales, usually around midsection, arms and legs
- Pus-filled bumps
When to Seek Medical Treatment
- If this is a new condition and you have not been diagnosed previously
- If your condition is affecting your daily life
- If your psoriasis is getting worse or covering more areas of your body
- If you are unable to get relief from over-the-counter options
- If your joint have been stiff, painful and inflamed
- If you have symptoms such as pus, fever and increased warmth and pain in an area
Psoriasis is thought have genetic and immune function involvement. T-cells, which are a type of white blood cell in the body, attack the skin, causing inflammation and leading to skin thickening.
Psoriasis symptoms can be made worse by:
- Skin trauma
- Infections such as cold or strep
- Side effects of medications:
- Mood medications
- Antimalarial drugs
- Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs, or the aspirin family
- High blood pressure medicines
Avoid hot baths as they can dry out your skin. Instead, shower with cool to lukewarm water. Bath products containing pine tar and colloidal oatmeal might help to alleviate your itch.
Moisturisers can help to keep the skin hydrated and reduce itch. Choose moisturisers that are hypoallergenic, which means they are less likely to cause allergic reactions. Consider greasier formulations such as soft white paraffin they lock in moisture better. Another commonly used ingredient is urea, which can help to draw water into the skin and reduce itching and scaling. Moisturisers are more effective when applied on damp skin, so pat your skin gently after a shower and apply your moisturiser within three minutes.
Refrain from smoking and drinking as this can exacerbate your psoriasis. If you have difficulty quitting cold turkey, consider the use of nicotine replacement therapy.
Stress can make your psoriasis symptoms worse. Try exercising or relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or meditation that can bring your stress levels under control.
When necessary, a cold compress can bring you quick relief.
Coal Tar is available off-the-counter, and can help with mild to moderate disease. It has been used to reduce inflammation, and slow down the growth of skin cells. Tar can cause irritations and make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, so stay out of direct sunlight to avoid sunburns.
Salicylic acid is a peeling agent, helping to soften and remove dry scaly plaques. Salicylic acid can irritate your skin if overused, so always follow instructions on the packaging carefully. Combination products with salicylic acid and coal tar are available.
Topical corticosteroids are commonly used to control psoriasis as they bring down swelling. Milder steroids like hydrocortisone and desonide are available from your pharmacist, while more potent steroids are only available under prescription. However, overuse of steroid creams can cause thinning of the skin, discolouration and straie, which look like stretch marks. Be sure to follow your physician’s direction when using such treatment continuously over a long time frame.
Phototherapy uses a mixture of ultraviolet light to slow down the multiplication of skin cells. It is rather effective, but you should be properly assessed by a doctor before proceeding with this treatment under medical supervision. Do not self-treat your psoriasis using tanning beds.
Topical prescription medications such as Vitamin D and Vitamin A analogues are also given to control psoriasis. In cases where the condition is severe, oral medications and biologic agents are indicated.