What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a condition causing thickened red patches - ‘plaques’ - covered by dry, silvery-white scales to appear on the skin. The condition affects around *2% of the UK population and can range from mild to debilitating.
What are the Symptoms of Psoriasis?
- Thickened red patches
- Dry, flaky scales
- Cracked bleeding skin
What Causes Psoriasis?
Psoriasis occurs when your body’s immune system (defence system) starts to attack healthy skin cells by mistake. This causes the immune system to produce new skin cells. Normally skin cells are created within 28 days, but with psoriasis, the process gets accelerated. The cycle of skin cell production becomes faster and faster with cells forming and dying within just five to six days. Dead skin cells begin to build upon the surface in thick, scaly patches.
- The condition appears to run in families.
- Psoriasis symptoms often flare-up due to triggers such as sunburn, stress, throat infections or after taking certain medicines.
How is Psoriasis Treated?
- Psoriasis is managed rather than cured. Most treatment regimens can be discussed with a GP or dermatologist (skin specialist).
- Mild psoriasis may be treated with creams alone such as emollients (special moisturisers) that keep the skin moist and reduce scaling.
- There are many helpful topical (applied to the skin) treatments including salicylic acid preparations to reduce heavily scaled plaques, topical steroids for thick patches and tar preparations to remove loose scales.
- Vitamin D and vitamin A ‘analogues’, which are gels or creams applied directly to the affected areas, can also ease symptoms.
- Phototherapy - which exposes the skin to controlled levels of ultraviolet light using special UVA and UVB machines can be helpful for people with moderate to severe psoriasis. The treatment is only offered in specialist skin departments.
- For severe cases of psoriasis oral or injected medication may be prescribed which target the immune system to slow the cycle of skin cell production.
What Alternative Remedies are there for Psoriasis?
Healthy living including stress management, cutting down on smoking and alcohol consumption may help reduce flare-ups.