Psoriasis is a skin condition which occurs as a result of an overactive immune system. It is characterized by dry, red skin with silver or white scales and itchy patches. This is a chronic disease, and symptoms may improve or worsen at different periods in time.
There is no exact cause of this disease. However, it is known that the T cells, which are part of the immune system, attack the cells of the skin, which results in the lesions.
There may not be a specific cause for psoriasis; however the following factors may worsen symptoms in susceptible individuals:
- Stress and infections
- Dryness, especially in cold weather
- Alcohol consumption
- Medications (such as blood pressure medicines, and lithium.)
The presentation of this disease may vary, but the most common symptoms include the following:
- Red, patchy skin with silvery scales (patches may range from a few small spots, or larger patches over larger areas)
- Itchy, dry and cracked skin
- Burning and soreness of the affected area
- Nails that are thickened, pitted or ridged
- Joints can be swollen and stiff.
There are several different types of psoriasis, including:
- Plaque psoriasis (the most common type, involving the classic red raised lesions with silvery scales)
- Erythrodermic psoriasis
- Pustular psoriasis
- Nail psoriasis
- Guttate psoriasis
- Scalp psoriasis
- Inverse psoriasis
- Psoriatic arthritis
There are also a lot of complications that may occur in patients who are diagnosed with psoriasis. For example:
- Psoriatic Arthritis: This type of arthritis causes damage to the joints, and may even cause a loss of function.
- Complications in the eye: these include blepharitis, uveitis and conjunctivitis.
- Heart diseases, hypertension and stroke
Diagnosis is primarily made on physical examination. Medical history along with skin, scalp and nails are examined in order to make a diagnosis.
A skin biopsy may also be required to make a diagnosis.
Lifestyle changes are an important part of managing this disease. A few changes that may help:
- Taking daily baths, with oils and salts like Epsom salts or Dead Sea salts (It is important to avoid harsh chemicals and hot water to avoid inflammation)
- Moisturize regularly
- Excessive sun exposure should be avoided, and sun screen should be used.
- Alcohol should be avoided
The treatment of this disease involves different creams and topical preparations including steroids, retinoid, salicylic acid, coal tar, vitamin D analogues and moisturizers. Light therapy or phototherapy uses natural or artificial UV light. In severe cases, oral or injected medication including retinoid, methotrexate, cyclosporine etc. may also be recommended.
When to consult a doctor?
A doctor should be consulted if the prescribed medication is no longer resolving your symptoms. Additionally, if you are starting to experience any of the complications associated with this disease, a doctor should be consulted.