What is Psoriasis? Types of Psoriasis, causes of Psoriasis and treatments for Psoriasis.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a reoccurring skin condition that affects around 2% of the population in the UK. In simple terms, it is only an acceleration of the usual growth of the skin. Normally a skin cell matures in 21 to 28 days. As they mature skin cells move from lower levels of the skin to the surface. The surface of the skin is constantly shedding dead cells. This leaves room for the new cells when they reach the surface. The skin cells of people with psoriasis are much faster. They move from the lowest level to the top not in 21 to 28 days, but 2 to 3 days. They arrive at such speed that they bunch up around the dying cells on the surface to create visible layers. These layers take on different shapes depending on the type of the psoriasis, and from person to person. Psoriasis affects both sexes equally. It may appear for the first time at any age, although it is more likely to appear between the ages of 11 and 45.
Is it catching?
Psoriasis cannot be caught from other people nor can it be transferred from one part of the body to another. It is a disease that starts from under the skin and comes out on the surface. It is not a disease that starts on the surface and moves inwards.
How serious is it?
Psoriasis literally comes and goes and can vary greatly in it’s intensity. Most people with psoriasis have small patches that either get better without any treatment or need very little treatment. The more severe forms of psoriasis may demand intensive medical and nursing care. One of the most serious problems is the widespread ignorance of other people about the nature of psoriasis. People with psoriasis can become overly concerned about peoples’ reactions and this can lead to a withdrawal from society and to feelings of isolation, depression and defensive shyness.
There are other complications to psoriasis due to the inflammatory nature of the disease. Recent research has found that it may be implicated in heart disease and arthritis.
What causes Psoriasis?
Certain genes have been identified as being linked to psoriasis. It appears, however, that a genetic tendency needs to be triggered off by such things as injury, throat infection, certain drugs and physical and emotional stress. Research is under way into all aspects of the causes of psoriasis.
Signs of psoriasis?
The most obvious signs of psoriasis are red patches of skin with silvery or white scales on top. The most usual places are on the kness and elbows. But it can appear anywhere on the body. The red patches can be itchy and can flake off.
The most common signs of psoriasis are:
– Very red patches on the skin with white or silvery white scales on top. This is called plaque psoriasis and over 90% of people have plaque psoriasis.
– These red bumpy patches can be anywhere on the body but are most common on the knees, elbows, hands, feet and around the lower body.
– Itching of the plaques. This is especially bad when the patches have first started to occur and there is a lot of new skin pushing up to the surface.
– Rain drop shaped patches are called Guttate Psoriasis.
What types of psoriasis are there?
There are many different types. Some are quite similar and others are significantly different and require different forms of treatment. Skin magazine would always advice you to seek medical advice to help diagnose exactly what type you have. The main types of psoriasis are:
Palmoplantar Pustular Psoriasis
If you have been diagnosed as having a type of psoriasis not listed here then please email us and we will research it and add it to the list. Also if you have a story you would like to share or a treatment which has really worked for you then please contact us and we will post it up on the site.
What treatments are available?
Many people, however, lose psoriasis naturally for long periods at a time or even entirely. But several factors have been connected to either an increased chance of an outbreak or a more intense one.
People with psoriasis should try and avoid injuries to the skin as it can trigger something called Koebner’s phenomenon. Koebner’s phenomenon is quite common. It happens when skin unaffected by psoriasis is injured by the too much sun, a burn or a scrape. Then a few days later psoriasis will appear either on the injured skin or even on other parts of the body.
Stress has been found to be a trigger for psoriasis. At Skin Magazine we have interviewed many people who have told us that their first outbreak was after a stressful incident. These have included car crashes, exams or the break up of an important relationship. So if you can either avoid stressful situations, which can be hard, or find methods of reducing stress levels such as exercise, meditation, yoga or avoiding stressful situations.
Smoking and psoriasis have now been directly linked. Smoking increases the chance of having psoriasis, the time you will have it and how serious it will be. One study actually found that women smoking 25 cigarretes a day were 2.5 times more likely to get it.
Alcohol and psoriasis is also a bad mix. Research from the 80s found a good evidence that even small amounts of alcohol can make psoriasis worse by reducing the ability of the liver to help the skin.
Generally the researchers felt that people with psoriasis are a bit more likely to drink and smoke more. They advice that a better idea would be to exercise more. This will be a better way to reduce depression and anxiety and will probably benefit the skin more in the long term.
Psoriasis benefits from a good diet. The easiest diet to follow is the same one which would be recommended to a person with a high risk of heart problems. In other words, low fat, loads of vegetables, not too much red meat and combined with plenty of good oils containing omega 3 and 6s. So oily fish, olive oils and not much butter, palm oil, lard or dairy fats. However, there is one small exception. Some research points towards a zinc deficiency being a factor in psoriasis. Meat is one of the best sources of zinc. So it is a good idea to have some foods containing zinc in your diet. Such as a bit of lean red meet, pumpkin seeds or peanuts.
The usual psoriasis treatment prescribed by doctors will be a steroid cream. Steroids can help clear it up and for some people can be enough. But steroids can become a curse. Over time they require increasingly higher doses to be effective. Once stopped, they can cause a much worse attack. Many people who suffer from psoriasis in long term look for maintenance treatments. The best maintenance treatments do not involve steroids.
Steroid free treatments
A moisturiser suited to psoriasis is the front line of a maintenance treatment. Skin which become too dry is more likely to have an attack of psoriasis. Skin Magazine recently reviewed a psoriasis cream for a maintenance treatment here.