PSORIASIS SYMPTOMSNot all patients will have identical symptoms of psoriasis. Some patients will experience reddening of the skin, which are then covered by silver scales and flakes of skin. Other patients may experience dry skin that cracks and bleeds while others may find their skin inflamed skin that appears swollen and scaly. While some adults will experience small scaled spots, this is most commonly found in children with psoriasis. Additional symptoms may include stiff joints, swelling of the skin and joints, burning, itching, soreness, as well as thickened finger or toe nails with pits or ridges marring the nail. Psoriasis can become disfiguring or disabling.
PSORIASIS CAUSESPsoriasis is caused by an immune system that has mistakenly identified the skin as under attack. In the blood stream a specific type of white blood cell known as a T cell is responsible for fighting infection as well as healing wounds. The T cell attacks the healthy skin cells in the same way that it would heal a wound and try to prevent a wound from becoming infected. The immune system kills off healthy skin cells faster than the body can get rid of them, causing discomfort, pain, thickening, scaling, and cracking and bleeding of the skin’s surface.
PSORIASIS RISK FACTORRisk factors for psoriasis seem to be poorly linked to the majority of cases with the exception of family history. There seems to be an almost undeniable genetic link in patients with psoriasis. Some patients may be considered an appropriate risk for psoriasis if they have another medical condition, especially one that involves an overactive or confused immune system, a high level of stress, obesity, and cigarette smoking.
PSORIASIS DIAGNOSISIn nearly all cases, psoriasis can be diagnosed with a physical examination as well as patient complaints. It is visually easy to recognize. However, for the cases which require further in depth determination, a biopsy may be taken. A small percentage of psoriasis cases mimic other skin conditions including lichen planus, neurodermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, or pityriasis rosea.
PSORIASIS COMPLICATIONSJust as the severity of psoriasis can vary greatly from patient to patient, so can the complications associated with this skin disease. Complications may include stress, depression, infection related to chronic itching and scratching, fluid imbalances and electrolyte imbalances for more severe cases, as well as a low self esteem.
Image: Skin Disease
PSORIASIS TREATMENTTreating psoriasis is generally a two step process, one treatment aimed at calming and redirecting the immune system and the other aimed at soothing and smoothing the skin’s surface. Psoriasis is difficult to treat due to the unpredictable nature of the disease. Suppressing the immune system for long periods of time is generally not considered safe practice, and over time the body can develop a resistance to most psoriasis treatments. Prescription medications that weaken the immune system are typically used for flare ups and serious attacks.
There are prescription topical creams that help the skin lose the plaqued build up skin cells, as well as re-hydrate the skin and offer it a more normal environment. Vitamin D analogues help to reduce the skin’s inflammation and promote healing. Topical retinoids developed specifically for the treatment of psoriasis attempt to normalize the DNA activity within the skin cells to reduce the symptoms associated with psoriasis. Patients with mild psoriasis have found that light therapy (exposing the skin to either natural or artificial forms of sunlight) have had very positive effects while treating psoriasis.
Daily baths with bath oils, Epsom salts, and other bath treatments can help the skin slough off the dead skin cells as well as soothe the skin’s discomfort. Covering the areas which are affected by psoriasis during sleeping hours helps to prevent bleeding and can help improve the redness and scaling associated with psoriasis. The application of cortisone as well as the purposeful avoidance of psoriasis triggers can also make a significant difference in the flare ups and their severity. Patients should be made aware that drinking alcohol can eliminate the effectiveness of their psoriasis treatments.