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A Guide to Understanding Psoriasis

What is Psoriasis?

People with psoriasis, (pronounced suh-RY-uh-sus) have a fault in their immune systems that cause too many skin cells to be produced. Their bodies don’t know how to get rid of these extra cells, and they cause build ups on the skin, resulting in red scaly patches. It is not a contagious disease. 

Plaque Psoriasis is the most common form and affects 90% of psoriasis patients. The skin features inflamed raised patches, usually seen on elbows, knees, the scalp and the lower back. These patches are typically covered with white or silver scales, which can itch and burn.

Guttate Psoriasis is more common in children or teenagers and is often triggered by upper respiratory infections. It features small pink to red spots and are located on the buttocks, upper arm, thigh, and Scalp areas.

Psoriatic Arthritis. This is a when you have psoriasis and then develop arthritis (inflammation of the joints). The symptoms include joint pain, stiffness and swelling of fingers and toes.

Inverse Psoriasis is seen in areas of the body with folds, including armpits, groin, under the breasts, and around the genitals and buttocks. These skin regions feature smooth red plaques of skin. 

Erythrodermic Psoriasis is rare and very serious. The symptoms are fiery red skin, peeling, itching, burning, an increased heart rate and changes in body temperatures. This causes protein and fluid loss, leading to infection, pneumonia, or congestive heart failure. If you have these symptoms, go to a doctor or a hospital immediately.

Pustular Psoriasis mostly occurs in adults. Pustules, which are pus-filled bumps, surround red skin and form in one area of the skin. If this skin irritation is body wide, this is a more severe condition. You should seek medical attention immediately.

 

Treatments

Topical Medication. These are creams that can be spread over the affected areas. Usually they include steroids or vitamin D3, which aims to slow the growth of the excess skin cells. Some are available over the counter such as corticosteroid. Other well known topical medicines are calcipotriene, anthralin or tars.

Phototherapy. This is also called light therapy and employs ultraviolet light to slow down the excessive skin cells growth. Sometimes doctors use creams together with the lights to treat psoriasis.

Oral Medications. Only prescribed for more severe psoriasis cases these pills or biologics that work to slow the growth of skin cells. Doctors are cautious in prescribing these as they have dangerous side effects on the kidney and liver.

Things to Avoid

Cold dry climates. It is thought that cold weather worsens symptoms while hot and humid weather conditions are said to alleviate symptoms.

Scratching, picking or peeling skin. Be gentle with your skin by avoiding cuts or scrapes. Patches of psoriasis often form around injuries. Be careful when trimming your nails, as this is a common site for psoriasis to flare.

Stress and anxiety can worsen symptoms or causes flares. You can read tips on how to reduce stress in your life.

Smoking and alcohol cause flares. Quit smoking and limit daily alcohol intake.

Overexposure to sunlight. Sunburn can lead to flares of psoriasis, and of course skin damage and skin cancer. Shorter periods of sun exposure help relieve psoriasis

Some medications have been linked to aggravating psoriasis symptoms including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, beta-blockers, and lithium.

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Treating Psoriasis at Home

Occlusion therapy. This therapy involves applying moisturize to an area of skin, and then covering it with a wrap of fabric or plastic overnight. In the morning you should exfoliate. The occlusion keeps the skin moist and can allow for the medicated creams to work more effectively. It’s best to discuss this method with your doctor as certain steroids and creams can have dire side effects.

Water Therapy & Dead Sea Salts. A 15-minute soak in a bath full of Dead Sea salts has been shown to soothe itchy skin and remove some of the scales. It is recommended to put a moisturizer on afterwards. 

Swimming in seawater can also help as the salt in the water helps remove dead skin and scales caused by psoriasis can be loosened. It is also recommended that you shower and moisturize afterwards.

Cayenne Pepper Paste. Application of this to the skin reduces pain and itching. Initially you will experience a burning sensation but with subsequent applications the burning will be diminished. Cayenne features capsaicin, the main ingredient in peppers, which produces heat and is an often used ingredient in pain relief creams. It’s important to be cautious when using this method as contact with other areas of your skin or eyes can be painful.

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