A highly common skin condition, Psoriasis speeds up the life cycle of skin cells causing them to build up quickly and rapidly on the skin surface. It is a long-lasting autoimmune disease which causes red, itchy and scaly patches on the skin. The rapid proliferation of skin cells is often triggered by inflammatory chemicals produced by lymphocytes. Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition which periodically improves and worsens especially with change of season.
Generally, the signs and symptoms of psoriasis are different for everyone. The most common symptoms are:
Scaly spots especially in knees, elbows and back
Itching, soreness or burning
Itchy and scaly skin on the scalp
Cracked and dry skin which may bleed
Painful, stiff joints that may get swollen after a while
Deformed and thickened nails
The exact reason which causes psoriasis is still unknown and remains a mystery for researchers. However, it is thought to be associated to a combination of elements such as environmental factors and genetic disposition. The T cells in the blood, a type of white blood cells attack the normal and healthy cells causing a lack of control in inflammation which is considered to play a key role in causing psoriasis.
Psoriasis is triggered due to the following reasons:
Medications such as Lithium, blood pressure medications can trigger psoriasis. Some antimalarial medications can also cause or worsen psoriasis.
Bronchitis, tonsillitis, flu, streptococcal infections can set off psoriasis.
Infections like HIV can set off extreme cases of psoriasis, especially in the beginning.
Obese people are at a higher risk of psoriasis.
Excessive intake of alcohol can worsen psoriasis.
Psoriasis is of 7 types, and knowing the kind of psoriasis can help in deciding the treatment options. The types are:
Plaque Psoriasis - Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of psoriasis which causes inflamed and red skin covered with white and silvery scales. It can appear anywhere on the body; however, it is most commonly seen on elbows, scalp, lower back and knees. These patches can burn or itch.
Inverse Psoriasis - Inverse psoriasis is characterised by bright red, shiny and smooth patches on the skin that lack scales. This type is typically found in groin, armpits, under the breasts and skin folds as well as under the buttocks and genitals. Yeast build up is common in inverse psoriasis and can get worse with sweating and rubbing.
Guttate Psoriasis - Guttate Psoriasis is more common in young adults and children and causes small, red spots on the skin. This type is usually seen on upper arms, scalp, thighs and trunk. It is often triggered by skin injury, stress, and even tonsillitis or streptococcal sore throat.
Pustular Psoriasis - Pustular psoriasis causes pus-filled bumps that are surrounded by patches of red skin. It is uncommon and mostly seen in adults. Pustular psoriasis can cover most of the body which is a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention. It can cause muscle weakness, nausea, chills, fast heart rate and fever.
Erythrodermic Psoriasis - It affects more than 90% of the body and causes fiery red skin that appears to be burned. Erythrodermic psoriasis is one of the least common forms of psoriasis and also the most serious. It is characterised by a change in the body temperature, severe burning and peeling of the skin. A faster heart rate is also seen in case of erythrodermic psoriasis.
Psoriatic Arthritis - In this condition, a patient may or may not have psoriasis on skin but joints especially small joints of hands are affected. Painful and stiff joints, discoloured warm joints, and swelling of toes and fingers indicate a case of psoriatic arthritis.
Nail Psoriasis - Most people with psoriasis have chronic changes in their nails. This is most commonly seen in those people who have psoriatic arthritis. Tender nails, pain in nails, colour changes, pitting of the nails, and even a fungal infection characterises nail psoriasis.
Psoriasis cannot be cured; however, psoriasis treatment can help control the condition and is a way of easing the symptoms over time. Treatment of psoriasis depends on its extent. A dermatologist will analyse the situation and start a treatment option to relieve the symptoms and control the outbreak. The psoriasis treatment options are as follows:
Light Therapy - Also known as phototherapy, light therapy involves exposing the skin to sun or source of ultraviolet light to ease the symptoms. A doctor uses specialised tools and instruments to control the exposure.
Topical Treatments - To control the itchiness, the doctor may prescribe various lotions, creams, ointments, solutions and sprays. Steroids can ease the inflammation and slow-down the growth of skin cells.
Systemic Drugs - In case the psoriasis is spread across the body and is moderate to severe, the doctor may prescribe a systemic drug – which affects the entire body. Systemic drugs that are prescribed in case of psoriasis contain vitamin A, methotrexate, cyclosponine and azathioprine.
Biologic Treatment - Biologics target a precise part of the immune system and works by targeting the causes instead of the symptoms. However, biologics are only used when the patient has no relief from other treatments. This treatment administers various drugs, in the form of IV and pills to the psoriasis patient.