Were you or someone you know recently diagnosed with psoriasis? We’ll give you the low-down on the basics of psoriasis and psoriasis care.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an immune disorder that causes raised, red, scaly patches to appear on the skin. These patches are called plaques. It typically affects the outside of the elbows, knees or scalp, though it can appear on any location. Some people report that psoriasis is itchy, burns and stings. Psoriasis is associated with a number of health conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and depression.
There are 5 types of psoriasis: plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic.
Why do I have it?
Not too much is known about psoriasis, except that it is an immune disorder and that genetics play a factor. If someone in your family has it, you’re more likely to get it. Psoriasis usually appears for the first time in people ages 15 to 35, but not always.
Some common triggers include:
- Skin injury
- lithium, antimalarial drugs, and the high blood pressure medication Inderal are known to trigger psoriasis
How do I treat it?
The first step is to see a doctor or a dermatologist to confirm that you have psoriasis. After that, you have many options available to you!
Reduce your stress
Because inflammation is your body’s reaction to stress, it is a trigger for psoriasis. Your immune system responds to injury and infection by sending out chemicals that cause inflammation and help heal a wound. In people with psoriasis, the immune system over-responds—it sends out too many of those chemicals. It is suspected that the immune system responds the same way to mental stress.
You can try meditation, exercise, removing yourself from stressful situations if possible, and seeing a therapist to help reduce your stress level
Manage itch and pain
Psoriasis can be very itchy and painful. To avoid scratching and making it worse, you can try several things:
This includes a wide variety of options such as lotion, anti-itch cream, and hydrocortisone.
Lotion is recommended because keeping skin hydrated can help the skin heal and reduce itching. Try thick lotions or ointments because they do a better job of locking in moisture.
If you have plaques already, anti-itch cream like calamine lotion can bring relief. Putting lotions and other topical treatments in the fridge is a great option, too.
Cold showers and compresses
Hot water can irritate and dry out skin, so try to limit your exposure to hot water. Cold showers and an ice pack can calm down redness and irritation caused by plaques.
Pharmaceuticals like Cosentyx, steroids, and anti-histamines can work well for people with psoriasis. However, they can have dangerous side-effects like inflammatory bowel disease. This may also not be an option for you if you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant. Many biologics (pharmaceuticals) cannot be taken if pregnant.
Phototherapy is another option with proven results and safe to use when pregnant. Phototherapy, also called light therapy, involves exposing your body to UV light.
Exposing affected skin cells to UV light through short, frequent sessions of exposure causes the skin cells to die, eliminating or improving symptoms, providing relief from psoriasis for many people. Although there is no cure for psoriasis, phototherapy treatments help significantly in upwards of 80% of the cases. In addition, red light treats inflammation and can help ease redness and itching caused by plaques.