Once thought to be a form of leprosy, psoriasis is a chronic skin disease which affects roughly 2% of the American population. Ranging from tiny patches of dry and silvery skin, to large scales or angry-looking red patches that cover large portions of the body, there are many ways of managing this unsightly disease, but no real method of curing it.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is considered to be a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the skin. Known to also be a hereditary disease, it occurs when the immune system misfires and tells the body that it needs to speed up the growth of skin cells. This then causes either red or silvered patches of scaly skin (called plaques) to appear on the body. Some of the more common body areas that are affected are the elbows, knees or scalp – though it can affect any area of the body, including the palms of one’s hands, the bottoms of their feet, their face or even their genitals.
Psoriasis comes in several different types – plaque psoriasis, pustular, and guttate psoriasis being the most common. Some cases are merely uncomfortable, where some can even result in death.
Nonpustular psoriasis – This form includes plaque psoriasis, which is the most common form, affecting up to 90% of people who are diagnosed with this skin disease. It also includes a more serious variety, known as erythrodermic psoriasis, which causes widespread inflamation over most of, if not all, of the body’s surface. This form of psoriasis is very dangerous, as it interrupts the body’s ability to regulate its temperature and can also prevent the skin from performing even its most basic barrier functions.
Pustular psoriasis – This variety appears as raised pus-filled bumps over either localised areas or generalised widespread patches over the body. The area around the bumps is usually red, inflamed and tender and this variety can commonly afflict the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
Flexural psoriasis doesn’t have the raised scaly patches of skin but, instead, has smooth patches of skin which are often shiny and inflamed. They commonly occur in folds of skin or areas of skin-to-skin contact, such as around the genitals, the armpits, folds around an obese stomach or underneath the breasts. Further aggravated by sweat and/or friction caused by the skin rubbing against itself, this kind of psoriasis can be very vulnerable to different fungal infections and should be closely monitored.
Psoriasis is a chronic disease, meaning that it is long-lasting and/or recurring condition. In addition to the unsightly skin patches, it can also afflict the fingernails, toenails, and has been discovered to cause an inflamation of the joints in 10-15% of all psoriasis sufferers. This kind of inflamation is known as psoriatic arthritis.
What Causes Psoriasis?
Truth be told, no one is positive what causes this skin disease. Psoriasis has been discovered to be a hereditary disease and is believed to have a genetic component. Some suggest that it may lay dormant in the bodysome until a prolonged injury to the skin causes it to flare up (called the Koebner phenomenon), or various environmental factors aggravate it, such as stress, drinking alcohol or smoking.
Psoriasis Treatments: What Works?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for psoriasis. There are, however, many ways to try to treat this disease and researchers continue to work at finding a way to help psoriasis sufferers. In the meantime, there are a few options available. Usually, what is done, is that the doctor will try medications that have the lowest risk first and gradually try more risky proceedures if the others fail to work. In most cases, simple topical treatments are applied first – medicated creams and ointments. If this fails, then the patient is usually then exposed to a form of UV (ultraviolet) radiation, known as phototherapy. If this method doesn’t work, then the doctor may attempt a systemic treatment, such as oral pills or injections to try and bring the disease under control. Additionally, some suggest that moving to a different climate may help those who suffer from severe cases. A unique alternate therapy is called ichthyotherapy: where special fish are allowed to feed on the psoriatic skin.
Things that you can do, as a psoriasis sufferer, include stopping smoking, cutting back on alcoholic beverages, losing weight and trying to reduce stress.
Aquariummalta.com – Information and images of ichthyotherapy