What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a skin disorder that is characterized by thick, red swollen patches covered with silvery white scales. These patches may often be found on the scalp, face, lower back, elbows, knees, hands, fingernails, toenails and soles of the feet. They may even develop in the inside of the mouth or on the genitals.
This condition causes the skin to itch and may be painful. Psoriasis is a debilitating, chronic disorder that affects the quality of life. There is no cure and people often experience flare-ups and remissions throughout their life. It often also leads to depression, stress and anxiety. Psoriasis affects men and women equally but may be more common amongst Caucasians.
There are different types of psoriasis including:
Plaque psoriasis may be distinguished by raised, red patches covered with silvery white scales. These scales are caused by a buildup of dead scales. This is the most common type of psoriasis and may occur on the scalp, elbows, knees or any other skin surface.
Guttate psoriasis appears as tiny, red dots and the lesions may have some scaling. Guttate psoriasis may occur after a bacterial or viral infection, or certain medications such as salicylic acid has been administered.
Inverse psoriasis is characterized by smooth, red patches without scaling. The affected area becomes irritated because of sweating and rubbing of the skin. This type of psoriasis occurs in the folds of the skin, specifically in the armpits, under the breast or groin.
Pustular psoriasis appears as blisters filled with pus on the skin. These blisters are not infectious and may be found on the hands and feet or may be spread all over the body.
Psoriatic arthritis approximately 10% of patients with psoriasis may develop a form of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis. Redness and swelling may be caused on the elbows, hands, knees, feet, hips and spine. It may result joint pain and stiffness.
Nail psoriasis affects the fingernails and toes causing pits of various size, shape and depth. The nails may turn thick and yellow and crumble easily.
The most common symptoms of psoriasis include:
- Dry, red raised skin patches (plaques) covered with silvery scales usually occurring on the scalp, knees, elbows, hands, nails, feet or lower back
- Formation of pustules (skin lesions) causing the skin to crack and become red
- Bleeding in tiny areas of the skin when the scales are picked or scraped off
- Nail abnormalities such as yellowish discoloration of fingernails and toenails, tiny pits found in the nails, separation of the end of the nail from the nail bed or a buildup of skin debris under the nails
- Joint pain or aches
Sometimes, burning, itching or discharge from the eyes may occur as well as lesions found on the genitalia.
What Causes Psoriasis?
The exact cause of psoriasis is not known but there are certain factors that may contribute to the development of this condition. It is believed that genetic factors may play a role because about one-third of people who develop psoriasis have one or more family members with this condition. A faulty immune system is also associated with psoriasis because an increased number of white cells are present between the abnormal layers of skin.
Other factors that may worsen psoriasis include:
- Changes in the climate – cold, dry weather makes symptoms worse
- Infections such as strep throat
- Skin injuries
- Stress and anxiety
- Certain medications such as NSAIDs, beta-blockers and lithium
The diagnosis of psoriasis is based on the appearance of the skin – the thick, red flaky patches characteristic of this condition. Very often doctors find it difficult to diagnose psoriasis because it can look like other skin disorders. To confirm the diagnosis, a skin biopsy or a culture of skin patches may have to be performed.
Help for Psoriasis
Treatment generally depends on the type of psoriasis, age, sex and lifestyle of the person, the severity of the condition and how the person reacts to certain treatments. There are three steps to treating psoriasis and include topical therapy (medications applied to the skin), phototherapy (light therapy) and systemic therapy (medications given as a pill or injection).
Topical treatments are most effective for treating mild to moderate psoriasis and are aimed at reducing swelling and skin cell turnover, helping the skin to peel, unclogging pores and suppressing the immune system. Phototherapy involves the use of natural ultraviolet light and artificial ultraviolet light – it reduces redness and slows the overproduction of skin cells that causes scaling.
If psoriasis is severe, medication in the form of an injection or pill is administered – this is called systemic treatment. These treatment options may be combined to achieve the best results. Through constant trail and error, the psoriasis sufferer needs to discover the most effective treatment.
The use of natural and alternative treatments has become increasingly popular among people suffering with psoriasis. Natural treatments such as herbal and homeopathic remedies are a safe and effective alternative to use especially when traditional therapy has failed to produce the desired results. Carefully selected ingredients have been chosen to support skin health and promote healthy cell renewal and routine shedding of old skin cells.
Herbs such as Galium aperine (Cleavers) and Trifolium pratense (red clover) have a wide of therapeutic benefits which include acting as a cleansing tonic, blood purifier as well as lymphatic cleanser. Tissue salts such as Natrium muriaticum, Kalium sulphate and Kalium muriaticum are excellent for maintaining skin health and supporting the natural healing and regenerative processes of the skin.