Psoriasis

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Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes the skin to flake off leading to skin redness and irritation. Most people with psoriasis have thick, reddened skin with flaky, silvery patches called scales.

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Causes

The exact causes of psoriasis are unknown. However, there are some findings that point to psoriasis being an autoimmune disorder (the body’s defence cells start attacking the body’s own skin cells).

Moreover, psoriasis is quite unpredictable and may affect people of any age. That being said, the diseases is commonly seen between the ages of 15 and 35. Psoriasis also seems to have a hereditary predilection and is most definitely not communicable.

Here is the detailed information on top 3 causes of psoriasis you should know about

Risk Factors

Things that reduce your body’s immunity can trigger psoriasis:


  • Stress

  • Bacterial or viral infections

  • Dry skin, especially in winters

  • Injury to the skin – cuts, insect bites and burns

  • Medicines like antimalarial drugs, beta-blockers, lithium

  • Smoking, alcohol

  • Too little or too much exposure to sun

  • Systemic conditions like AIDS and other autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Chemotherapy for cancer

Symptoms

The most common symptom of psoriasis is dry and itchy skin covered with silvery scales. These patches are often in certain areas of the body and may look raw (with a pinkish or reddish hue).They are usually raised and thikened area of the skin.

If your nails are affected, you might notice that they appear thicker than normal with a brownish-yellow tinge and have pits on its surface. In very severe cases the nail may separate from its base.

In case you suffer from psoriasis on the scalp, you may see a lot of dandruff-like symptoms and have excessive flaking. If psoriasis affects the joints, you may suffer from intense pain. This is also known as psoriatic arthrits. In situations where the genital areas are affected, a common symptom seen is genital sores.

Diagnosis

Psoriasis is diagnosed based mainly on the symptoms you have. In some cases your doctor may advice you to get a skin biopsy. This is done mainly to rule out any other conditions that mimic other diseases. If your joints are affected, then  x-rays may be required. Apart from that certain blood tests may be done to check yout autoimmune status.

Treatment

Unfortunately psoriasis cannot be cured, but can be treated. Therefore the goal of treatment is to control the symptoms and control their recurrence and infections. If you have psoriasis here are some of the common treament options you might have.

Topical applications (creams, ointments)


  • Medications that reduce inflammation: These medicines contain cortisone, which is a mild steroid. The main function of cortisone is to reduce inflammation and redness of skin. However, since it acts by suppressing immunity, it can have various side effects as well. Some of the ill effects of cortisone is that it is believed to lead to dependance on the drug, since it provides relief when applied, but the symptoms (dry, itchy and scaling skin) soon reappear when its application is stopped.

  • Ointments to reduce skin cell turnover: These are creams, ointments, lotions and shampoos containing coal tar or retinoids. Both these compounds work by slowing down cell growth and reproduction. If you do opt for this mode of treatment make sure you are not pregnant since it is known to cause birth defects in foetuses.

  • Medication to remove scales associated with Psoriasis: These usually contain salicylic or lactic acid

  • Ointments to moisturize the skin: This usually includes over-the-counter moisturizers.


There are some drugs available that are known as Systemic medications. This consists of pills and injections that contain methotrexate, retinoids and cyclosporine. These drugs must be prescribed by a trained physician after a thorough examination of your general health, since most of these drugs do have severe side effects. If you are planning to use these medications to treat psoriasis make sure you tell your doctor everything about your health and if you plan to get pregnant any time soon. Your doctor might adviceyou to get some regular blood tests, to check for the status of your mmune system. If your psoriasis patches get infected, you will also be prescribed antibiotics to help fight the infection.

Another method of treament is phototherapy. This is a treatment metod where your doctor will use Ultraviolet (UV) light to treat psoriasis. The different types are:

  • UVB light: This treatment is usually given along with other topical or systemic medication. You will likely have to go through three to five sittings per week for two to three months.

  • PUVA (Psolaren plus ultraviolet A): Beams of ultraviolet A light are used with Psolaren (a topical medicine which increases the skin’s sensitivity to light). Once you are done with the treatment it is essential that you cover your skin and eyes well for atleast 12 hrs after you have completed your sitting.

  • Lasers: These are extremely concentrated beams of ultraviolet light which work on only the diseased skin. Reducing the side effects associated with UVB and PUVA treatments.

Alternative Remedies

Homeopathy assesses the individual as a whole and does not only treat symptoms. It factors in the environment you live in, his/her temperament and the  symptoms you have. All of these factors are considered before prescribing a course of treatment. Thus, no two people with psoriasis will have the same remedy. Homeopathy works on the principle ‘like treats like’. Homeopathy works on improving the body’s ability to recognise its own cells thereby helping you beat the symptoms of the disease.

Tips

Self management is a big part of managing psoriasis, here are some tips you should keep in mind to avoid flareups of psoriasis.


  • Bathe in lukewarm water with a mild, non-fragrant soap. Do not use hot water as it can cause your symptoms to flare up.

  • Apply a mild, non-fragrant, moisturizer after you have a bath to seal in the moisture. You could alternatively try using natural ingredients like olive oil as a moisturizer.

  • Wear well-fitting, cotton clothes, since it will allow your skin to breathe and soft on the skin.

  • Cover your skin well during the winters in order to prevent dryness.

  • When you suffer from psoriasis it is essential to take care not to get injured, as wounds do not heal as quickly in people with psoriasis.

  • Trim your nails regularly to avoid scratching which might lead to a flare-up of symptoms.

  • Quit smoking and alcohol. They can cause your psoriasis to flare up.

  • Always try to maintain a healthy weight. Get some exercise. But remember, it is essential to consult your doctor before you start any fitness regime.

  • Avoid getting stressed. Practice relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga to reduce stress which might trigger attacks.

  • Avoid red meat as it has been known to increase inflammation in the affected areas.

  • A good home remedy is to eat flax seeds (Alsi). The omega 3 fatty acids in flax seeds modify the chain of events that cause psoriasis. Have a handful of the seeds just before breakfast and dinner every day by first roasting and grinding them. Mix this powder with two spoons of water and eat the paste.

  • Taking a walk in the sun before nine in the morning also helps control the symptoms, as the vitamin D from the sun and UV rays help reduce the itchiness and flaking.

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