What Is Psoriasis and How Is It Treated?
For some people, psoriasis is simple a nuisance that causes embarrassment and discomfort. For others, it is a disfiguring condition that causes disability and pain. Its link to arthritis only compounds the problem.
To make matters worse, there is no cure for psoriasis. Fortunately, treatments may provide some symptom relief. Home remedies and lifestyle measures may also improve the condition.
What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is one of many common disorders that affect the skin. It causes skin cells to build up rapidly, forming thick red patches with itchy scales. The affected skin may feel uncomfortable or painful.
Psoriasis is a chronic condition that persists for a long time. People who have it may enjoy brief periods of remission when their symptoms improve. However, these remission periods alternate with flares that worsen the symptoms.
Infections, stress, weather and medications are common psoriasis triggers. These and other factors may start or worsen psoriasis symptoms. Other risk factors include family history, obesity and smoking.
Psoriasis symptoms vary, but most people experience at least some of the following conditions: red patches with silver scales, small scaly spots, dry skin that cracks and bleeds, itching or burning, ridged nails and swollen joints.
Psoriasis scaling may resemble dandruff, or it may grow to major skin eruptions. Different symptoms characterize different types of psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis is the most common type; others include scalp, nail, guttate and pustular psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis involves the typical psoriasis symptoms as well as joint pain and swelling.
If the symptoms persist or worsen, a trip to the doctor may be in order. Psoriasis treatment aims to stop the cycle that increases skin cell production. It also removes the scales that cover the skin. Topical solutions, oral medications and light therapy are three common psoriasis treatments.
Medicated creams and ointments are generally effective for mild or moderate psoriasis. They include prescription corticosteroids, topical retinoids, anthralin, synthetic vitamin D and calcineurin inhibitors. Salicylic acid, coal tar and moisturizers are popular over-the-counter remedies.
For severe psoriasis, doctors may prescribe oral medications or injections. Retinoids, cyclosporine, methotrexate, hydroxyurea, thioguanine and immunomodulator drugs are commonly-prescribed medications.
Doctors may also use light therapy to treat severe psoriasis. Sunlight is a natural form of light therapy; other treatments include ultraviolet phototherapy, narrow band therapy, photochemotherapy and the Goeckermann treatment. Some doctors use Excimer laser therapy, pulsed dye therapy or combination light therapy to treat the condition.
Aloe vera and fish oil are two alternative methods of psoriasis treatment. Doctor-approved supplements can be a good way to complement traditional medical treatment. Healthy eating, daily bathing and avoiding psoriasis triggers can minimize the symptoms and reduce flares.