Psoriasis is a chronic disorder of the skin characterized by reddish, scaly patches of inflammation. It is a non-contagious and very common skin condition. It commonly affects the skin of elbows, knees and scalp. Some people have such mild psoriasis i.e. very small, faint dry skin patches that they may not even suspect that they have a medical skin condition.
Others have very severe psoriasis when the entire body is fully covered with thick, red and scaly skin. Psoriasis has been reported to affect approximately 2% of the world’s population.
Some people have worsening of their symptoms in the colder winter months. Many people report improvement in warmer months, climates, or with increased sunlight exposure.
Causes of Psoriasis:
- Genetic predisposition
- Factors that may aggravate psoriasis include stress, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking
- Drugs, including salicylates, penicillin and recombinant interferon-beta injection.
- Sunlight or phototherapy
- Cholestatic jaundice
- Calcium deficiency
- Sudden withdrawal of oral corticosteroids
- Withdrawal or excessive use of strong topical corticosteroids.
- Psoriasis can be the result of genetic defects
- Exposure to cold weather
- Sunburn and other injuries to the skin
- Immune system deficiency and Autoimmune diseases
- Thick patches of red, scaly skin, especially on the knees and elbows.
- Small red spots on the skin.
- White blisters surrounded by red skin.
- Large areas of redness on the skin.
- Psoriasis symptoms may appear anywhere on the body, including palms, soles of the feet, the legs, lower back, face, and scalp. In some instances, it also appears on the fingernails, toenails, genitals, armpits, and inside the mouth.
- Pustules may occur on the tongue resulting in dysphagia and nail shedding, respectively. These episodes of pustulation may occur for days to weeks, thereby causing the patient severe discomfort and exhaustion.
Different Types of Psoriasis:
There are several different types of psoriasis:
- Plaque psoriasis
- Guttate psoriasis
- Psoriasis of special skin sites
- Other types of psoriasis
This is the most common type of psoriasis. The patches, known as plaques or lesions, can wax and wane but tend to be chronic.
Plaque psoriasis can occur anywhere on the body. Commonly affected sites are the elbows, knees, knuckles, scalp, trunk, arms and legs, and external sex organs. Itching may not always present but when scratched they can become inflamed.
This type of psoriasis most often affects children and young adults. It appears as small, red bumps-the size of drops of water-on the skin. Antibioticsmay be used to treat guttate psoriasis that is triggered by an infection.
Psoriasis of Special Skin Sites
- Psoriasis that affects the scalp is called seborrheic psoriasis. The scalp may be the first site to be affected by psoriasis. The condition may resemble severe dandruff.
- Psoriasis can affect the connective tissue that forms the nails. Pitting of the nails may be an early sign of nail psoriasis.
- Psoriasis that affects the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet is called palmoplantar psoriasis.
- Red, flaking, thickened skin that covers most of body is called erythroderma. When this happens in a person who has a history of plaque psoriasis, it is called erythrodermic psoriasis.
- A rare and severe form of psoriasis in which small, pus-filled blisters appear on the skin is called pustular psoriasis. People with this condition may need to be treated in the hospital. They are usually ill with fever and chills.
- Up to 30% of people with plaque psoriasis also have psoriatic arthritis. Individuals with psoriatic arthritis have inflammation in their joints and may have other arthritis symptoms.
It is very difficult to diagnose psoriasis in early stages. Symptoms, like a dandruff-like scalp condition or what looks like a fungal infection, may be hard to recognize as psoriasis. Dermatologists diagnose psoriasis by examining the skin and noting specific characteristics of the lesions. Occasionally they may need to biopsy the lesion and examine the skin under a microscope to confirm diagnosis. There are no blood tests or other laboratory tests available for establishing diagnosis.
There are many effective treatment choices for psoriasis. For mild disease that involves only small areas of the body, topical skin creams, lotions, and sprays may be very effective and safe to use. Occasionally, a small local injection of steroids directly into a tough or resistant isolated psoriasis plaque may be helpful.
For moderate to severe disease, topical products may not be effective or practical to apply. These cases may require systemic or total body treatments such as pills, light treatments, or injections. The risks and potential benefit of medications have to be considered for each type of psoriasis and the individual patient.
Herbal tips for Psoriasis:
- Do not take cold water bath immediately after a heavy work out.
- Take care not to consume foods which cause indigestion.
- Absolutely do not eat too much of salty, sour or acidic foods.
- Avoid sleeping in afternoons.
- Avoid eating radish, sesame, jaggery, curds, fish and other sour foods.
- Always apply besan flour instead of soap.
- Keep on applying moisturizing gel or cream continuously to maintain the moisture levels of skin.
- Use a humidifier in the home.
- Bathing in hot water may help reduce scaling.
- Use mild soaps or soap-free cleaners.
- Alcohol is considered a risk factor for psoriasis in young to middle-aged men. Avoid or minimize alcohol use if you have psoriasis.
- A well-balanced and adequate diet is important in the management of plaque psoriasis.
- Sun exposure may help in many cases of psoriasis and aggravate it in others. Avoiding environmental factors that trigger psoriasis, such as smoking, sun exposure, and stress, may help prevent or minimize flare-ups of psoriasis.
- Avoid scratching or itching that can cause bleeding or excessive irritation.
- Soaking in bath water with oil added and using moisturizers may help. Bath soaks with coal tar or other agents that remove scales and reduce the plaque may also help.