There is nothing more annoying than having an unsightly skin disorder, especially in the warmer months when more of our skin is on display. Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that is characterized by red, raised patches of skin covered in dry, silvery scales. These patches form due to an abnormality in the immune system that causes the cells in certain areas of the body to regenerate more rapidly than in other areas. Psoriasis patches, also known as plaques, range in size, but are generally form on the knees, elbows, scalp and feet.
The exact etiology of psoriasis is not known. It is suspected that the immune system plays a key role in the formation of these plaques; however, research reveals that psoriasis may run in families making it a hereditary disorder.
It is also believed that certain medications may be responsible for triggering an onset of psoriasis. Among the medications believed to share responsibility in the formation of psoriasis include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, lithium (used to treat mood disorders), beta blockers (used to treat hypertension) and antimalarial medication. Other possible triggers include excessive stress, injury to the skin, exposure to sunlight (although sunlight is also known to actually help psoriasis flare-ups), smoking, extremely cold weather, HIV infection, streptococcal infection and even hormonal changes.
Symptoms of Psoriasis
There are many symptoms common to psoriasis. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Raised and thick patches of skin
- Red in color
- Silver, scaly patches
Psoriasis may form anywhere on the body. Most cases of psoriasis tend to be mild to moderate in the number of plaques that form. Psoriasis most commonly affects jointed areas of the body such as the knees, elbows, hands and feet. Psoriasis can also form in the scalp and in the fingernails. Children with psoriasis tend to develop plaques that are less scaly than adults. Most people experience remission of their psoriatic flare-ups during summer months, and have a more difficult time managing the skin condition in the colder months.
While psoriasis is annoying, it is treatable, it is not life-threatening, and it is not contagious. Your dermatologist will prescribe the best method of treatment for you depending on the severity of your psoriasis. If you suffer from a mild form of psoriasis, meaning the number of plaques on your body are few, your doctor will most likely prescribe a topical steroid solution in the form of a cream, gel or ointment. People with mild psoriasis tend to respond well to topical treatments. For those with a more severe case of psoriasis, oral or injected steroids may be a wise course of action. Finding the right medication or combination of medications may initially be trial and error, so don’t lose heart. Keep in mind that treatment does vary from person to person and what works well for one may not for another.
There are certain things you can do to help keep your psoriasis under control. For example, keep your skin moisturized to avoid the dryness and flaking that is common to psoriasis. Oatmeal baths may help to lessen inflammation and minimize itchiness. Some psoriasis sufferers report that bath salts also seem to help relieve their symptoms. It has been reported that some sunlight may help to improve psoriasis.
Although there is no known cure for psoriasis, it is a common condition that is treatable and manageable. Much research is currently being done in an effort to understand why some people are more susceptible to psoriasis than others. Be encouraged, a cure may be closer than we think!
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