What You Should Know About Psoriasis

You’ve had an unbearable itch that just won’t go away — no matter which creams, gels, or shampoos you’ve tried in a vain attempt at relief. The itching is so intense at times that you can’t sleep or think about anything else. Find out about psoriasis, and see if this could be what’s causing your discomfort.

What You Should Know About Psoriasis

About Psoriasis

Psoriasis is more than a simple itch or skin condition — it is an autoimmune disease. This means that your immune system starts to attack healthy cells in your body and can cause normal body functions to go a little wacky.

Although you may not be aware of it, much of what psoriasis does to you takes place beneath the skin. Normally, your body produces new skin cells about every 28-30 days, giving the body time to shed the old skin layer. With psoriasis, however, the immune system boosts up this process and pushes the body to create a new layer of skin every 3-4 days. This doesn’t leave enough time for your body to shed the “old” layer of skin, and so your skin thickens, creating redness and flaking around that area.

Psoriasis is purely an autoimmune disease — it’s not at all contagious. You cannot “catch” this by touching the affected area of a person’s body.

Symptoms

Symptoms can vary depending on the severity and the type of psoriasis. Here are some of the basic symptoms.

  • Raised, red lesions.
  • Silver, scaly plaques.
  • Dry skin that may crack and bleed.
  • Painful itching, burning, or soreness.
  • Nails that are pitted or separated from the nail bed.
People often go through cycles and flare-ups with this disease. Some even go through periods of time with no symptoms at all. Paying attention to what may trigger a flare-up (whether it’s a certain food or activity), can help you to control it and enjoy longer periods of time when you’re symptom-free.

Contributing Factors

While we don’t yet fully comprehend the cause of this autoimmune disease, there are two main factors that are believed to contribute to it.

Genetics – There appears to be a genetic link that predisposes people to this disease. If you have it, chances are that someone in your family also has the gene. However, having the gene does not mean that you will develop the disease. It only means that you are predisposed to it. Only about 2-3% of people who have the gene actually develop the disease.

Environment – If you carry the gene, there are a few environmental triggers that have been linked to developing psoriasis. These include injury to the skin (i.e., cuts and scrapes), infection (i.e., strep throat or thrush), stress, and certain medications.

Treatments

The itch of psoriasis has been described as unbearably painful, sometimes comparable to being bitten by fire ants. Obviously, treating this symptom is a priority. To treat this itching, your doctor may prescribe antihistamines, phototherapy, steroids, or topical anesthetics. You can work alongside your doctor in finding a treatment or combination of treatments that best fits your needs and provides soothing relief from the itchiness.

Other broader treatments aim to stop the overproduction of skin cells, reduce inflammation, and remove scales from the skin. These treatments include medication that is directed at the immune system. One such medication is methotrexate, which helps to reduce inflammation and decrease skin cell production. Another is cyclosporine, which suppresses the immune system, resulting in the same benefits as methotrexate. Your doctor may also suggest an immunomodulator, which would alter the immune system. All of these treatments come with various side effects that you should discuss with your doctor to create a plan that works for you.

Knowing about psoriasis and possible treatments can be a powerful tool. As science and medicine advance even further, more answers to this medical quandary are expected with eager anticipation.

Speak Your Mind

*