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Psoriasis: Everything You Need to Know

Dr. Irfan Ahmed Kakezai

3 min read

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Psoriasis is a common chronic skin condition due to an overactive immune system that speeds up the life cycle of skin cells. This rapid buildup of cells on the surface of skin forms scales and red patches that are itchy and sometimes painful. Its symptoms include flaking, inflammation, redness and thick, white, silvery, or red patches of skin which sometimes crack and bleed. Though its symptoms differ from person to person, common symptoms are: thick silvery scales, red patches, dry cracked skin, itching, burning, pitted and ridged nails, and swollen and stiff joints. The patches can range from few dandruff-like spots to larger ones that cover greater areas of skin. Its common types include: Plaque psoriasis, scalp psoriasis, inverse psoriasis, pustular psoriasis, and erythrodermic psoriasis. Psoriasis episodes cycle, lasting a few weeks to months each time.

Causes

Medical research has identified two main causes of psoriasis but the details and interplay of the causes of psoriasis remain a mystery.

Immune system:

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition. Normally your white blood cells destroy invading bacteria and fight infections, but with psoriasis they mistakenly attack the skin cells. This increases skin cell production, resulting in plaques overlaying red and inflamed skin.

Genetics:

Unfortunately, psoriasis can be a matter of genetic inheritance. This means that if a family member has this skin condition, you are more likely to develop it. Though the percentage of developing psoriasis for genetic reasons is quite small, it’s still considered a cause.

Triggers

There are some external triggers which may cause a bout of psoriasis. Not only do the triggers vary from person to person, they may change over time within the same individual. The most common triggers include:

Stress:

Depression, anxiety and unusually high stress levels may trigger a flare-up. In order to prevent this flare up, one has to manage their stress in a positive way.

Alcohol:

Excessive use of alcohol also triggers psoriasis flare-ups. It can make treatments less effective too. Your health care team can help you quit the habit smoothly to help you maintain your health.

Injury:

An episode of psoriasis can also be triggered by an accident, a scrape or any open cut or wound. Too much scratching can also trigger the condition.

Medications:

Some medications may also trigger this condition. These include:

  • Lithium
  • Anti-malarial medications
  • High blood pressure medication

Treatments

Though it is not curable, psoriasis is controlled and managed by avoiding external triggers and with the use of proper medication and promising new therapies. For mild psoriasis in which small areas of the body are affected, topical treatment is usually suggested by the doctors. This includes creams, lotions, and sprays. Occasionally a steroid injection into a resistant psoriatic plaque may be effective. Another treatment option is ultraviolet therapy. In some cases, systematic medication may be required to stop the progression of psoriasis. Following are the most effective treatment options for this disease:

1- Topical treatments:

Application of prescribed creams and ointments directly onto the affected skin can be effective in minimizing mild to moderate psoriasis. They include:

  • topical corticosteroids
  • topical retinoids
  • vitamin D analogues
  • salicylic acid
  • moisturizers
  • bath salts

2- Systemic medications:

People with moderate to severe psoriasis, may need to use oral medications. Choosing the right medication is an intricate issue that requires the help of your dermatologist. Since many of these medications have severe side effects, doctors usually prescribe them for short periods of time.  They include:

  • methotrexate
  • acetretin (Soriatane)
  • cyclosporine(Sandimmune)
  • biologics
  • apremilast (Otezla)

3- Phototherapy (light therapy):

This treatment entails the use of ultraviolet (UV) light sources to clear psoriasis. These treatments are usually given in clinics two to three times per week and consistency is key for their success.

A combination of treatments and therapies may be suggested by the doctor to reduce symptoms depending on the condition of each patient.

4- Avoiding Triggers

  • Treating psoriasis with proper diet:

Proper diet and healthy living habits ensure sound health and body fitness. Although healthy food can’t cure psoriasis, it can be significantly reduce it.  You should not take saturated fats. Meat, particularly red meat, and dairy products should also be avoided. Eat food that contains omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines, walnuts and soybeans.

  • Lose weight:

If you’re overweight, losing weight may reduce the condition’s severity. Losing weight may also make treatments more effective. Overall health also improves by losing weight.

  •  Drink less alcohol:

Alcohol consumption increases the risk of flare- ups. You can quit this habit smoothly with the help of your doctor.

  • Consider taking vitamins:

A vitamin rich diet is strongly recommended. Adequate nutrients should be included in your diet and suggested supplements should be taken.

  •  Reducing stress by exercise and yoga:

Stress and anxiety should be avoided as they also triggers psoriasis. Management techniques should be adopted to reduce flare-ups.

This disease has no cure. However, managing its symptoms and causes may help in reducing flare-ups. The main goal of treatment is actually to reduce inflammation and scales, slow the growth of skin cells, and remove plaques. In order to avoid any complications, seek medical assistance from our expert doctors and specialists. Leaving this problem unattended may cause life threatening issues. Our medical professionals are here to identify the trigger of psoriasis to suggest the best treatment for you. You can book an appointment with a top dermatologists in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com. You can also call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT doctor for your health concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Irfan Ahmed Kakezai - Author Dr. Irfan Ahmed Kakezai is a Dermatologist and Cosmetologist. He has an MBBS, M.D, P.hD (Derm), and CHES (USA) degree along with an experience of 25 years. He is also a member of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC). Dr. Irfan Ahmed Kakezai practices as a Dermatologist at Bayview Hospital, Online Video Consultation and Park Lane Hospital and charges 2000, 2000 and 2000 respectively.
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