Do you see red patches on your skin with white scales? They might be appearing on your scalp, elbow, knees, or lower back. This is a skin disease, Psoriasis.
It usually appears in adulthood and mostly affects some parts of your body. However, it can severely affect your body or cover your whole body as well.
Moreover, this skin disease can also affect children. The most common area it can affect is your scalp, knees, elbows, hand, and feet.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a skin disease, in which your cells multiply rapidly up to 10 times faster than normal cell growth. This makes your skin bumpy with red patches that are covered with white scales.
It tends to go through various cycles, flaring up for a few weeks or months however it subsides for a while or goes into remission.
You can learn more about our skincare and skin treatment here.
Types of Psoriasis
There are different types of psoriasis. These include:
Plaque Psoriasis: This is the most common form that causes dry, red skin patches with silvery scales. You might notice your skin rising or bumpy where plaque psoriasis is.
These patches can be itchy or tender and they may range from few or many. However, these usually appear on your knees, elbow, lower back, and scalp.
Nail Psoriasis: This type affects your fingernails and toenails. It can cause pitting, abnormal nail growth, and discoloration of your nails.
As a result, your nail might lose and separate from the nail bed causing nails to crumble.
Guttate Psoriasis: It affects young adults and children and the main trigger of this type is bacterial infections. These are strep throat. It appears on your trunk, arms, or legs in drop-shaped scale lesions.
Inverse Psoriasis: This type of Psoriasis, affects the skin folds of your body.
To understand it, the part of your skin folds are areas where skin rubs against the skin.
This affects the skin of the groin, buttocks, and breast causing smooth patches of red skin that get worse with friction and sweating. Moreover, fungal infections can also trigger this type of psoriasis.
Pustular Psoriasis: It is a rare form that has pus pocket or lesions that are widespread in the form of patches or in smaller areas on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet.
Erythrodermic Psoriasis: The least common type of psoriasis that can cover your entire body with a red peeling rash that can itch or burn intensely.
Psoriatic Arthritis: This causes swollen, painful joints that are typical symptoms of arthritis.
Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis affect joints, your fingertips, and the spine.
And at certain times only nails change color. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can affect any joint in your body.
Scalp Psoriasis: This is one of the most common types which causes reddish or scaly patches on your sclap.
It can appear as a single patch or several and can affect your entire scalp. This skin disease can moreover, even spread to your forehead, the back of your neck, or behind your ears.
It can cause stiffness and progressive joint damage that can lead to permanent damage to your joints.
Psoriasis and Skin Cancer
According to the National Foundation of Psoriasis, chronic inflammation can increase the risk of cancer.
This skin disease can cause inflammation of the skin, organs, joints, and blood vessels. Moreover, research has confirmed that there is an increase in the risk of cancer with this skin disease.
Moreover, another study suggests that it can cause non-melanoma skin cancers, lymphoma cancers, and cancers of the oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, colon, lung, and kidney.
Symptoms of Psoriasis
The signs of symptoms can vary from person to person. Common signs and symptoms of Psoriasis are:
You can see red patches of skin with thick silvery scales, however, small scales are observable in children, according to National Psoriasis Foundation.
It causes dry and cracked skin that may bleed or cause itching and sometimes soreness and burning sensations.
It may also cause thick or ridged nails and swollen or stiff joints. Psoriasis patches can range from patches like dandruff to major eruptions the cover large areas of your body.
The most common areas affected are the back, knees, elbow, legs, and soles of the feet, scalp, face, and palms.
The type of psoriasis can go through various cycles, flaring for a few weeks or months however it subsides for a time as well.
According to one study, psoriasis is commonly associated with other conditions like:
Causes of Psoriasis
Most doctors consider psoriasis an immune disease that causes the skin to regenerate at faster rates. In the most common type of psoriasis i.e. Plaque Psoriasis, this rapid regeneration of cells results in scales and red patches.
Most of the researchers believe that the triggers of psoriasis are both genetics and environmental factors however, this disease is not contagious.
Immune System: it is an autoimmune condition in which the cell of the body starts to attack itself. In the case of Psoriasis, the white blood cells attack the skin cells of your body.
White blood cells in our body attack and destroy the invading bacteria and fight infections. However, when they attack other cells of your body the skin cell regeneration increases.
Because of the increase in rapid cell regeneration, they pile up on the surface of your skin and cause red patches and inflammation. This immune system, responds in a range of reactions like:
- Enlargement of blood vessels in the skin
- Increase in white blood cells that rapidly increases
- Increase in skin cells, T cells, and immune system cells
- Accumulations of new skin cells on the surface of your skin
- Development of thick, scaly patches
Genetics: Studies suggest that some people are likely to develop Psoriasis as they have certain heredity genes from immediate family members.
However, the percentage of people with psoriasis and genetic predisposition is very small. According to NPF, 2 to 3 people with the gene develop this condition.
What Triggers Psoriasis?
The symptoms can worsen with certain triggers and they can be environmental and physical. These vary from person to person however, some common triggers are:
Temperature changes especially cold temperature, autoimmune disorders like HIV, or rheumatoid arthritis. Infections that can weaken your immune system like strep throat.
A skin injury like cuts, bug bites, or sunburns and sometimes excessive stress and tension
Certain medications can also trigger psoriasis-like beta-blockers and anti-malarial drugs.
Your doctor will look for signs and symptoms of psoriasis. Usually, two tests or examinations are necessary to diagnose it.
Physical Examination: Most of the time, your doctor will diagnose psoriasis by physical examination of your skin. It is usually evident and easy to distinguish from other conditions.
During the examination, however, do let your doctor know if any one of your family members has this condition.
Biopsy: In case the symptoms are unclear, your doctor may take a skin sample and confirm the condition. This is Biopsy.
They will send the sample to a lab, where the technicians examine it under a microscope. The examination, therefore, can diagnose the type of psoriasis and can rule out other conditions or infections.
Your doctor will likely inject you with a numbing medication to make the process of biopsy less painful. And then send the sample to the lab.
Moreover, after your doctor revives the results they will discuss the treatment options with you.
Treatment of Psoriasis
Psoriasis has no cure, however; certain medications aim to treat inflammation and scales, slow down the growth of skin cells and remove plaques.
The treatment of Psoriasis is divided into three categories:
Topical Treatments: Certain creams and ointments can help to reduce the inflammations from mild to moderate psoriasis.
Topical treatments treat areas of skin fold and scalp, etc. These are as follows:
- Topical corticosteroids
- Topical retinols
- Vitamin D analogous
- Salicylic acid
Systemic Medications: People who have moderate to severe psoriases and who do not respond to other treatments use systemic medications.
These are as follows:
Light Therapy: This therapy uses UV rays or natural light. Sunlight kills the overactive white blood cells in your body that are attacking the healthy cells and causing rapid cell generation.
Both UVA and UVB are helpful in reducing the symptoms of mild to moderate Psoriasis.
Most people can benefit from a combination of the treatments to reduce the symptoms.
Some people may have to use the treatments for their entire lives, however, others may need to change the treatment of their skin stops to respond to certain medications.
Your doctor may consider oral or injected medications if you stop responding to other treatments.
The most common oral and injected medications are as follows:
Biologics: This medication alters your immune system and prevents interactions between your immune system and inflammatory pathways.
Moreover, they can be given through intravenous (IV) infusions or through injection.
Retinoids: These reduce skin production. However, if you stop using them the symptoms are likely to return. Side effects of this medication include hair loss and lip inflammation.
However, women who are pregnant should not use this medication for at least three years, because of possible birth defects.
Cyclosporine: This prevents the immune system to respond and can ease the symptoms of psoriasis. It also means that because of a weak immune system you become sick easily.
Side effects of this medication are kidney problems and high blood pressure.
Methotrexate: This medication also suppresses your immune system and can cause fewer side effects when taken in less quantity.
However, it can cause serious side effects in long term. Serious side effects include liver damage, reduced production of white and red blood cells.
Diet Recommendations for people with Psoriasis
Food cannot cure this disease but certain foods can reduce the symptoms and signs you face. Moreover, you can incorporate lifestyle changes in your daily routine to ease up inflammation and flare-ups.
Lose Weight: In case you are obese, try shedding those extra kilos as they can reduce the severity of your condition and will make the treatment more effective.
Eat Healthily: Reduce your intake of saturated carbohydrates as they are found in animal products like meat and dairy. However, you can increase the intake of lean meat or proteins like salmon, sardines, shrimp, etc.
Avoid Trigger Food: Certain food like red meat, refined sugar, processed food, and dairy products can trigger psoriasis. Try to avoid the foods as much as possible.
Vitamins: Doctors prefer a vitamin-rich diet to vitamins in pill form. However, even the healthiest person might need to take additional vitamins.
Moreover, ask your doctor and discuss with them if you need to take certain supplements and how they can help.
Is it Possible to Prevent it?
As psoriasis is inherited, therefore it is impossible to prevent it at this time. However, you can add a healthy lifestyle change to your routine to decrease the chances of developing it.
Moreover, certain risk factors are preventable, Managing your stress level, weight and quitting smoking can reduce the risk of developing this skin disease.
Psoriasis is more common in adults and can have lasting effects on an individual’s life. However, approximately 20,000 children under the age of 10 are diagnosed every year according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.
What are the Complications?
In case your doctor diagnoses you with psoriasis, there is a chance that you may develop other complications or conditions including:
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Eye conditions like conjunctivitis, swelling in and around joints
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Auto-immune diseases like celiac diseases, sclerosis, etc.
- Mental health conditions such as low self-esteem and depression
Although there is no cure for psoriasis, you can manage the symptoms and flare-ups. Working with your doctor to find the treatment that best suits you can relieve pain, discomfort, and itching.
Moreover, taking certain steps to identify the triggers of your flare-ups can also help you manage the symptoms, and limiting your exposure to these can help you in the future as well.