While often linked to eczema because it can sometimes have a similar appearance, psoriasis is a completely unrelated condition that results in excess skin cells being developed. While it’s difficult to prevent acquiring psoriasis in the first place, outbreaks can be controlled.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a condition that causes skin cells to develop more rapidly than the body sheds them. This is an immune-mediated disorder, meaning a defect of the immune system is the cause. Skin cells are generated regularly by the body as general maintenance, but also in response to injury or invasion. With psoriasis, the body’s immune system generates skin cells both excessively and incorrectly. This results in patches of scaly skin known as plaques.
Who Gets Psoriasis?
This condition usually appears when a person is a young adult, and in most cases onset is between 15 and 30 years of age. After the initial onset, the condition will wax and wane, meaning the affected person will experience times of more or less severe outbreak and may have times it disappears entirely. There are a number of possible precipitating factors to an outbreak. These are the most common:
– Dry, cold weather
– Skin injury, including sunburn
– Alcohol consumption
– Medication, especially corticosteroids, when discontinued
What Are the Different Types of Psoriasis?
There are five types of psoriasis.
– Plaque psoriasis is the most common, affecting approximately 85% of those with this skin disorder. It presents as raised, red patches, often with a silvery-white buildup of skin cells.
– Guttate psoriasis affects about 10% of those with the disorder, and may develop in childhood. It appears as small, separate red patches.
– Inverse psoriasis shows as smooth red patches. While not common, it is most commonly found in those who are obese, with large skin folds.
– Pustular psoriasis presents as white pustules, surrounded by red skin.
– Erythrodermic psoriasis is the rarest form of psoriasis, and is especially inflammatory. The affected area will be widespread and inflamed. This form of psoriasis can be life threatening.
These five types of psoriasis are not independent of one another and will often occur together.
Where Does Psoriasis Occur?
These patches of scaly and usually itchy skin can occur anywhere on an affected person’s body. The likely locations depend partially on the type of psoriasis being experienced, but most outbreaks occur on the elbows, knees, scalp, and back. Most people with psoriaisis will experience an outbreak on their nails at some point. Inverse psoriasis is most likely to occur within the folds of skin, often at the groin area.
How Can Psoriasis Be Treated?
When experiencing an outbreak, the main thing is to get it under control. Some common treatments include intensive phytotherapy with light, usually UVB and sometimes UVA. Various methods of transmission are used, including actual sunlight. Topical treatments include corticosteroid creams, topical vitamin D ointments, calcineurin inhibitors (which help reduce the inflammatory response), and salycilic acid, which helps reduce scaling, and even coal tar, which is perhaps the oldest psoriasis treatment. Drug therapy includes retinoids, which are related to vitamin A, in addition to vitamin D, immunosuppresant drugs and anti-inflammatory medications.
Can Psoriasis Be Prevented?
Psoriasis is difficult to prevent because many of the risk factors cannot be avoided. Once the condition has developed, it is possible to gain control to some degree by avoiding common precipitating influences. Take measures to control and manage stress in your life. Eat a healthy diet made up of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and healthy oils. Vitamin D is key in prevention, so make sure to get enough through your diet, through creams and through sunlight. Even small amounts of alcohol can cause an outbreak, so it’s best to avoid it altogether, and do not smoke.
Psoriasis can be irritating and itchy, but more than that it is emotionally disturbing because of its appearance. If you have this skin disorder, learn what life factors tend to bring on an episode and do your best to avoid them. It is possible to greatly control outbreaks and have a more enjoyable life.