Psoriasis is a common inflammatory skin condition of red patches covered with dry, silvery scales, known collectively as plaques. These plaques consist of several layers of dead skin cells. Psoriasis treatments are quite varied, as are their results. Our skin is continually in the process of renewing itself, taking approximately one month from start to finish. After cells are created in the under-layer (dermis), they move outwards towards the skin's surface. On their journey to the outermost layer (epidermis), they die and become keratinized (hard). The cells then separate from each other and slough off. With psoriasis, the skin cells overproduce and cause the outer layers of skin to build up. This entire skin renewal process takes only a few days instead of a month.
Psoriasis is not contagious, and typically involves:
- Limbs, especially elbows and knees
- Sacral (lower back) area
- Navel or groin region
Severe cases may involve large areas of the body with frequent recurrences. Psoriasis most commonly affects people between the ages of 15 and 50. Caucasians are affected more than other ethnic groups, and they most frequently seek psoriasis treatment.
Causes of Psoriasis
Heredity may be a factor in approximately one-third of cases, where the skin cells begin to multiply. But it is more likely cultural: how we eat. This inflammatory condition is related to the immune response. Psoriasis is aggravated by irritations or injuries such as cuts, burns, insect bites, rashes and infections such as strep throat. Scaling of the skin may be particularly severe in people whose immune systems have been suppressed by drugs, including people with AIDS, chemotherapy patients, and those with autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Similarly, as is the case with eczema, digestive problems may precede psoriasis. These include inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and diverticulitis. This could be due to abnormal absorption of undigested nutritional materials into the bloodstream. These foreign compounds within the bloodstream provoke immune hypersensitivity, and potentially adversely affect the skin.
Psoriasis development occurs for many reasons:
- Viral or bacterial infections
- Too much or too little sunlight
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Friction against the skin
Common Psoriasis Treatments
The most common mainstream treatment for mild to moderate cases include topical steroid psoriasis medications. They reduce inflammation & itching, and stop the rapid buildup of dead skin cells, therefore bringing psoriasis relief.
The stronger cortisone preparations come with side effects:
- Thinning of the skin
- Dilated blood vessels
- Skin color changes
- Flare ups as a result of stopping these medications suddenly
- Resistance (the preparation becomes less effective over time)
- Cortisone injections may be used as a last resort when there is resistance to treatment
Stubborn, thick patches respond well to this psoriasis medication but it may cause irritation in some individuals and can stain clothing. New improved Anthralin preparations and methods of treatment have reduced the likelihood of experiencing negative side effects and provide some psoriasis relief.
Prescription vitamin A is often utilized for treatment either alone or in combination with topical steroids for psoriasis relief. Women who are pregnant or likely to become pregnant should not use topical Retinoids, as they can cause birth defects.
Calcipotriene is a synthetic form of vitamin D that is helpful. Drugstore or health food store Vitamin D has not proven itself in providing psoriasis relief.
For widespread psoriasis you get treatment with psoralen + UVA, or PUVA. It is effective in 85 to 90% of cases. Psoralen followed by a carefully measured amount of a special form of ultraviolet (UVA) light requires over 20 treatments over a period of time. Clearing and control of lesions normally requires up to 40 treatments annually . PUVA treatments increase the risk of skin aging, freckles, and skin cancer.
This psoriasis treatment is named after the Mayo Clinic dermatologist who developed it in 1925, and uses daily treatments of coal tar dressings and ultraviolet light to provide psoriasis relief.
When all else fails, this oral anticancer drug produces significant results and is a last resort psoriasis treatment. Liver disease is a dire side effect, therefore regular blood tests, chest x-rays and liver biopsies may be required. Other side effects include upset stomach, nausea and dizziness.
An immune-suppressing drug, Cyclosporine is used as a psoriasis medication when other methods have failed. Due to cyclosporine's potential impact on the kidneys and blood pressure, close medical monitoring and regular blood tests are required.
A variety of prescription and nonprescription shampoos, sprays, oils, and solutions are available and contain coal tar or cortisone. The treatment for psoriasis of the scalp depends on the severity of the disease, the person's lifestyle and the length of hair.