Mayo Clinic defines Psoriasis as a common skin condition that changes the life cycle of skin cells. This chronic disease causes cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin. The extra skin cells form a thick silvery layer on the skin which sometimes becomes painful.
The body naturally produces new skin cells every month to replace the dead skin cells that sheds or flakes off. However, those who suffer from psoriasis the new skin cells form within days rather than weeks. So these newly formed cells accumulate on the skin surface causing acute discomfort. Psoriasis can happen to anyone and people belonging to the age group of 15-35 years are susceptible to this persistent disease reports National Psoriasis Foundation.
Psoriasis also occurs if your immune system is not functioning properly. A type of white blood cell called T lymphocyte or T cell detects and fights foreign bodies like viruses and bacteria. If you are suffering from psoriasis then the T cells attack the healthy skin cells by mistake as if to fight an infection or heal a wound. Overactive T cells trigger other immune responses which include dilation of blood vessels in the skin surrounding the plaques and a rapid increase of white blood cells that reach the outer layer of the skin. These changes bring about an increased production of healthy skin cells, T cells and other white blood cells. As a result the new skin cells move to the outermost layer of the skin in a matter of days and dead skin cells can’t slough off that quickly. This forms thick scaly patches on the skin.
Researchers say that genes and environmental factors are responsible for the malfunction of T cells in people with psoriasis. Here are some factors that can trigger psoriasis-
- Infections like strep throat and other skin infection.
- Injury to the skin like bug bites and cuts
- Severe sunburn
- Uncontrolled stress
- Cold weather
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Certain medicines like lithium, high blood pressure medicines, anti-malarial drugs and iodides.
The symptoms of psoriasis vary from one person to another, some common symptoms include
Red patches of skin with silvery scales
Children have small scaling spots
Dry cracked skin that bleeds
Itching, burning and soreness
Thick, pitted and ridged nails
Swollen and achey joints
Psoriasis patches often resemble dandruff but sometimes severe eruptions covering large areas can occur.
To understand the symptoms better it is important to know about different kinds of psoriasis-
Plaque Psoriasis: A very common form of psoriasis that causesa raised and dry type of red skin plaque covered with flakey scales. It can occur at any place in your body like soft tissues within your mouth.
Nail Psoriasis: Psoriasis can also affect the nails on your fingers and toes. In severe cases the nails can crumble and detach from the base portion of the nail, or, onycholysis. In normal cases the nails become discoloured and pitted.
Scalp Psoriasis: This type of psoriasis that occurs on the head resembles red and itchy spots with flakey white scales. The affected areas can extend beyond the hairline. So every time you scratch your scalp you will find the white flakes falling around your shoulders.
Guttate Psoriasis: This commonly occurs in children and young adults. This type of psoriasis is commonly precipitated by bacterial infections like strep throat. Small round shaped sores appear on the trunk, legs, arms and head. These sores are layered with fine scales.
Inverse Psoriasis: This type of psoriasis is triggered by fungal infection and is aggravated by chafing and sweating. Inverse psoriasis affects the skin that’s inside the armpits or groin, or even the genitals and areas beneath the breasts. The skin turns red and inflamed.
Pustular Psoriasis: A rare type of psoriasis is marked byblisters that appear hours after the skin becomes tender and a red color. Sometimes pustular psoriasis will often cause flu-like symptoms such as chills or fever or even diarrhea. The rashes can often be found in large patches inside smaller areas of your hands, fingertips and feet.
Erythrodermic Psoriasis: This type of psoriasis can occur on your whole body and cause a pink or red sclaing rash that peels and itches or burns severely.
Psoriatic Arthritis: This type of psoriasis can affect any joint and the symptoms can be both mild and severe. Psoriatic arthritis is not as crippling as other form of arthritis but it has been shown to damage joints and cause stiffness that may lead to a form of deformity.
If you are suffering from any the symptoms mentioned above it is time to visit your doctor for an examination. Also inform the doctor if you are suffering from discomfort and pain. Also, if performing routine tasks become difficult for example if you are having joint swelling or swiftness. Consult the physician if the appearance of your skin doesn’t look normal.
If you are already scared reading the symptoms remember that psoriasis can be cured and prevented. Doctor or dermatologists often prescribe creams or ointments that include-
Vitamin D Analogues
Sometimes doctor prescribe light therapy where skin is exposed to ultraviolet light rays under medical supervision to slow down the growth of new skin cells. If the treatments don’t work then the doctor will prescribe medicines to suppress your immune system.
You can also opt for natural remedies to cure psoriasis. However, it is best to consult your doctor before you take them, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have preexisting medical conditions like diabetes. This is because natural remedies sometimes can interact with medications causing adverse reactions. If you are having any side effects report to the doctor and discontinue using the natural product.
Here are some common natural remedies that you use at get relief from discomfort-
Aloe Vera: Gel from the aloe plant can be applied on the skin thrice a day. This will reduce the redness and scaling associated with psoriasis. Use creams that contain 0.5% Aloe Vera.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Applying apple cider vinegar provides relief from scalp itch caused by psoriasis. You can dilute the cider vinegar with water in 1:1 ratio to prevent the burning sensation. However don’t apply apple cider vinegar if your scalp is cracked or bleeding this will worsen the situation. If apple cider vinegar works for you then you will see the results within a few weeks.
Capsaicin: This ingredient in chili peppers makes them hot and if added to ointments it can soothe pain by blocking the nerve endings. Capsaicin can reduce pain, redness, inflammation and scaling caused by psoriasis.
Dead Sea Salts: Adding Dead Sea Salt or Epsom Salt in your warm bath water and soak in the tub for at least 15 minutes can help to remove the scales and reduce the itching. Just apply moisturizer just after bath.
Oats: Applying oat paste on the skin or taking a bath in oats can reduce redness and relieves itchy skin.
Tea Tree Oil: This oil is derived from a plant that is native to Australia. Tea Tree oil has antiseptic properties and is skin-friendly. Applying shampoos containing tea tree oil will help to fight scalp psoriasis.
Turmeric: This herb is known for its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin present in turmeric can alter the gene expression (TNF cytokine expression). This makes turmeric the first choice in preventing psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis flares. You can have it as a pill or supplement or add turmeric liberally in your food. Ask your naturopath your own turmeric dose.
Oregon grape (Mahonia Aquifolium) – This is a power-packed anti-microbial herb that can control the immune response. This herb belongs to the alkaloid family and applying ointment with 10% Mahonia is very effective in treating both mild and moderate psoriasis.
Fish Oil: Applying fish oil directly on the skin helps to cure psoriasis. Also vitamin D, Evening Primrose oil and Milk Thistle help to relieve the skin irritation. Make sure that these supplements doesn’t interfere with re-existing medical conditions or have harmful side effects.
Olive Oil: Applying olive oil on the affected areas can help to loosen some plaques next time you take a shower.
Other Tips to Control Psoriasis
Here are some additional tips to get cured of psoriasis-
Use Humidifier: Keep the air around your room moist with a humidifier since this will prevent skin dryness. Also sensitive-skin moisturizers help to prevent psoriasis outbreaks.
Apply Soaps without Dyes and Fragrance: Most soap has dyes and fragrances to make you smell great. However, if you are already suffering from psoriasis don’t use these soaps. Instead go for products that are labeled ‘for sensitive skin’.
Diet: Eliminate red meat and fatty foods to manage psoriasis. The National Institute of Psoriasis lists soy beans, nuts, chocolates and cranberries as ‘functional’ foods that can alleviate symptoms caused by psoriasis. Cut down on sugar, foods with gluten, white flour and caffeine to cure the sores.
Keep Skin Hydrated: Apply some thick ointments like Vaseline (petroleum jelly), olive oil and heavy skin creams. However don’t apply a very thick layer in the summer because sweat mixed with the ointment can make psoriasis worse. Pat yourself dry just after bath and apply the cream to seal in the moisture.
Be Careful While Taking Bath: Avoid hot water while taking a bath. Don’t use towel while robbing since chafing can worsen psoriasis. Add bath salts or oats while taking a bath since plain water can cause skin dryness. Take fewer showers in the winter to prevent skin dryness.
Follow Doctor’s Prescriptions: It doesn’t feel great to apply thick creams on the affected areas daily. However, it is important to follow the doctor’s instructions.
Expose Your Skin to Sunlight: Ultraviolet rays of the Sun can help to treat psoriasis, so a bit of natural Vitamin D will do no harm. However don’t overexpose since this can cause sunburn. Apply sunscreen on areas that is not affected with psoriasis; make sure it is above SPF 30. Consult your doctor to know how much of sun exposure you need.
Quit Smoking: Smoking makes psoriasis worse so it is best to quit smoking. Also this will reduce other health risks like cardiovascular and lung cancer.
Cut Down on Alcohol: Psoriasis is common in people who drink heavily so restrict your consumption. It is however best to avoid alcohol.
Tend to your Mental Health: This is important in managing psoriasis but it is often overlooked. Talk to a therapist to resolve your problems. Stay stress free.
Medicines that work on someone might not work on others. Find out what suits you best and incorporate that in your daily routine. So stay hydrated, think and look healthy always!