Learning About Psoriasis
For many people, Psoriasis is a condition that they deal with for their entire lives. But with the right information and knowledge about the disease and it’s treatments, people with Psoriasis can control and manage the disease, and live a normal life.
What is Psoriasis?
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis is a skin condition, that causes scaly red lesions on the skin, that can range from small in size to covering much of the body.
Psoriasis can manifest in one of 5 primary forms – plaque, inverse, guttate, erythrodermic, and pustular. Of these, the most common is plaque psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis typically takes the form of red and white scaly patches on the surface of the skin, and can occur in virtually any area of the body. These scaly patches, then, cause itching and burning around the affected areas, causing significant discomfort for those afflicted with the condition.
While psoriasis has been connected with certain autoimmune disorders such as Chron’s disease, the true causes of psoriasis are not yet fully understood. It’s believed that the condition is genetic in nature, and is aggravated by environmental factors, causing the condition to ‘flare up’. Essentially, the immune system reacts to normal skins cells as though they are pathogens, and sends out signals to create new skin cells, leading to the psoriatic symptoms described above. The exact cause of the flare-ups is not completely understood, and may vary across those afflicted with the disease.
Symptoms of Psoriasis
Psoriasis can usually be diagnosed by visual inspection, and its symptoms are usually pretty hard to miss. In the case of plaque psoriasis, which is the most common form of psoriasis, the symptoms usually show up as red scales or lesions, with well-defined edges with raised lesions. Many people diagnosed with psoriasis also experience itchiness, and burning or stinging sensations.
In many cases, psoriasis seems similar to eczema, another skin condition that shows somewhat similar symptoms, but there are key differences between the two. Psoriasis usually is better defined and thicker on the skin than eczema, which usually doesn’t have raised lesions. Also, eczema tends to form on the inside of the knee, or in front of the elbow. Psoriasis, in contrast, has a typically wider area of infection, including the outside of elbows and knees, the back, face, palms, soles of the feet, and scalp.
Psoriasis is not contagious, but there is likewise no cure. However, psoriasis can be treated. But so far, there is no one treatment that fits all instances of the disease, and there is no one drug or ointment that works for all patients. And, because of the recurring and chronic nature of the condition, the same treatment that worked once for a given patient may not work later, even for the same person. That’s why it’s important to understand the various treatments available to treat psoriasis.
- One of the most commonly-prescribed methods for treating psoriasis is the use of steroid-based ointments or creams. In most cases, these creams can reduce the production of the cells that cause psoriasis, and reduce the common symptoms that come with psoriasis, such as itching and burning. However, some caution should be exercised with these creams, as they come in different levels of strengths and effectiveness – and, like any such drug, increasing the strength of these creams can also increase the side effects that come with them. These are steroids, after all, and misuse of the cream can cause its own set of issues and symptoms.
- Calcipotriene is another common method of treatment. Calcipotriene is related to Vitamin D, and is effective in treating psoriasis. Like the steroid-based creams mentioned above, it’s also typically applied as a cream, directly onto the skin. And also like steroid-based creams, it can cause side effects as well, and should only be used in relatively limited amounts.
- Rentinoids are also a topical cream or ointment, and are administered directly to the area of the skin affected by the disease. The active ingredient in retinoids is essentially synthetic vitamin A, and they have been shown to be effective in some cases of psoriasis. Again, though, these should be prescribed by a physician, as they can cause side effects including additional irritation to the skin.
- An intriguing treatment for psoriasis, that doesn’t involve drugs, is the use of doctor fish. Doctor fish are actually just that – tiny fish, that live primarily in Turkey (although they have been exported to countries such as Japan and China and several surrounding nations), living in ponds and rivers. Doctor fish are foragers, and when a human enters a pool of water where they live, the fish will essentially swarm that person, sloughing off dead skin cells for food. This isn’t painful – people who describe it typically say it tickles a little, but not too much. And it becomes something of a symbiotic situation, where the fish gain a source of food while exfoliating the skin of the person in the pool. And doctor fish, it turns out, are particularly attracted to psoriasis, which in turn had been shown to reduce symptoms of psoriasis in most of the people who attempt this treatment. A few studies have been conducted on this therapy, and the results largely confirm the observed data, with organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) acknowledging the benefits of using doctor fish.
- Similar to the doctor fish resorts in Turkey, another interesting alternative therapy involves the blue lagoon in Iceland. The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is a geothermal spa, and is one of the most popular attractions in Iceland. Situated in a lava field in southwestern Iceland, the spa’s waters are mineral-rich, and bathtub-hot. Because of the high concentration of minerals in the water, the spa has a global reputation for treating a variety of skin conditions and diseases. Perhaps chief among the diseases that have been shown to be treated successfully at the Blue Lagoon is psoriasis, and people travel to the spa from all over the world to bathe in its waters.
The key to remember is, if you suffer from psoriasis, that there are a range of treatments available. Some are traditional, some are somewhat non-traditional, but keep in mind that psoriasis treatment is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and if you approach your condition with that in mind, you’re much more likely to find the treatment that works best for you.