Psoriasis is an inflammatory autoimmune condition that manifests itself in the skin and joints. It affects at least 7.5 million Americans. The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown but is likely influenced by environmental and genetic factors. Approximately one third of those afflicted by psoriasis have a family member with the condition. It may appear at any age, and is found in all ethnic groups.
Types of Psoriasis
Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of skin manifestation. It produces patches of red, raised, scaly skin that may also be itchy or painful. Classic locations would be the elbows, knees and scalp, though nearly any area of the body may be affected.
Guttate psoriasis is most common in childhood and young adulthood. It appears as scattered, scaly red dots and is known to appear after strep bacterial infections.
Other Types of Psoriasis
When psoriasis appears in folds of skin in the underarms, crease of the leg, or crease of the buttock, it may have a smooth, pink appearance. This is called inverse psoriasis. Less common types of psoriasis would be pustular psoriasis, and erythrodermic psoriasis, which covers most of the body surface.
Psoriatic arthritis causes inflammation and pain in the joints. The risk of development of this form of psoriasis, in addition to the skin disease, is about 30% over an individual’s lifetime. It is important to treat this type of psoriasis as it can lead to permanent joint destruction, deformity, and disability. There is some overlap between treatments of skin psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, though a rheumatologist will commonly be involved in the treatment of psoriatic joint disease.
Psoriasis Triggers and Causes
There are certain foods that flare psoriasis by triggering an inflammatory response. These foods include alcohol, dairy products, foods with added sugars and food that contains glutens, which is a type of protein in wheat and other grains. Food containing refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta, can cause a psoriasis flare. Saturated fats, such as red meat and cheese, can also trigger psoriasis.
Stress, skin injury, infections, allergies diet and weather can trigger psoriasis, as can medications like lithium and anti-malarial drugs.
Common Treatments for Psoriasis
Currently, there is no cure for psoriasis, but there are many effective treatment options available, with many more in development. Knowing how to calm a psoriasis flare up can help you alleviate symptoms before they become too severed. Psoriasis treatment often depends on a number of factors, such as the severity of symptoms, the disease pattern, patient preferences, and patient age and health.
Psoriasis treatment often includes topical therapies using medicated creams and ointments applied to the skin. These creams and ointments may contain:
- Corticosteroids – most frequently prescribed psoriasis treatment
- Vitamin D – slows the growth of new cells
- Retinoids – derived from vitamin A
- Calcineurin inhibitors – suppresses the immune response that causes psoriasis
- Salicylic acid – reduces scaling associated with psoriasis
- Coal tar – reduces scaling, itching and inflammation
- Goeckerman therapy – combines coal tar treatment with light therapy
- Anthralin – slows skin cell growth
Phototherapy, also known as light therapy, involves exposing the skin to controlled doses of artificial or natural light. This psoriasis treatment reduces inflammation and slows down the growth of new skin cells. A dermatologist may recommend phototherapy alone or in combination with another type of psoriasis treatment. Repeat treatments may be needed.
Systemic medications are prescription drugs that work throughout your body. Some systemic medications are biologics, which target the specific parts of the immune system that play a role in psoriasis. These medications can be taken by mouth or administered through an injection or intravenously (IV). A psoriasis dermatologist may recommend systemic medications to treat moderate to severe psoriasis that does not respond to other treatments.
There is no reason why any individual should be forced to suffer with this embarrassing and uncomfortable disease. If you are interested in getting help for your psoriasis symptoms, contact Center for Dermatology today to schedule a consultation.