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How To Handle Psoriasis
When it comes to chronic skin conditions that can make everyday life super uncomfortable, psoriasis is pretty high up on the list. Not only can it cause uncomfortable itching and redness, but it can also make one self-conscious.
Psoriasis is a life-long condition without a cure and flare-ups are often hard to control. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated.
Below, we talk about the different ways one can manage psoriasis with varied treatment pathways, from dietary modifications to UV therapy. Let’s get into it.
What is psoriasis?
What exactly is psoriasis? Is it the same thing as having eczema? Not quite, but the confusion is understandable because the two diseases have a similar presentation. Mayo Clinic describes psoriasis as a “skin disease that causes a rash with itchy, scaly patches, most commonly on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp.”
In other words, it’s a condition where the skin produces new skin cells way too quickly, causing immature cells to build up on the outermost layer and resulting in the dry, flaky patches we often see on people with psoriasis.
Normally, skin cell growth takes 3 to 4 weeks. For those who live with psoriasis, this process is sped up so rapidly that new cells are produced every 3 to 7 days — so you can imagine what happens.
People with psoriasis will go through cycles of flare-ups that last anywhere from weeks to months, after which they will subside for a certain time period before arising again. Because of this, wellness professionals would recommend lifestyle changes as part of the many treatment options, which can include topical treatments and ultraviolet B (UVB) treatment, which we’ll talk about further down.
What is the main cause of psoriasis?
Much like other chronic diseases, the exact cause of psoriasis isn’t exactly known. However, research suggests that the problem might lie in the immune system, according to the UK’s National Health Service. The CDC also describes psoriasis as an autoimmune disease. That said, you should consult a skin doctor a.k.a. dermatologist if you want to get proper treatment.
Because this skin ailment has such complex roots, it’s best to look at the symptoms of psoriasis, the types of psoriasis, and its severity for the individual living with it before the doctor can prescribe a treatment plan. It can seem overwhelming if you’re still starting to figure it all out for yourself, so we want to help you break it all down in a succinct yet non-scary way.
Symptoms of psoriasis
Psoriasis is marked by a number of symptoms; the tricky thing is that it can look different for everyone. Because of this, managing psoriasis symptoms won’t be 100% the same across the board, but there are a few good practices that generally work for most symptoms. Before we get to that, let’s discuss what the symptoms of psoriasis typically are.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, symptoms can range from mild to moderate and severe. The most common include:
- Red patches of flaky and irritated skin
- Dry, cracked skin
- Itchiness on areas of the body where the patches appear
- Discolored rashes
According to the CDC, people who have psoriasis are more likely to have serious illnesses, including:
- Heart disease
- Psoriatic arthritis
Is psoriasis associated with skin cancer?
Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis don’t cause skin cancer, but a few studies have suggested that having psoriasis can increase one’s risk of getting skin cancer.
Types of Psoriasis
To treat psoriasis, it’s best to know what kind you have. Here’s a quick rundown of the types of psoriasis:
If you always get a few small patches of itchy, red irritated skin across your body, you might be dealing with this first type of psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of this autoimmune disease. It’s characterized by the presence of large, flaky, or scaly skin lesions — known as plaques — that can be dry, red, or irritated.
Psoriasis vulgaris, the other name for this type of psoriasis, can appear anywhere on the body but it is usually found along the elbows, knees, or lower back. This type also includes scalp psoriasis, although others often cite this as a category of its own.
The NHS says about half of the people living with psoriasis have it on their nails. This can present in a number of ways:
- Dents or pits on nails
- Abnormal growth
- Loose nails, nail bed separation
- Crumbling nails (in severe psoriasis)
Commonly found in children and teenagers, a guttate psoriasis is a form of mild psoriasis that shows up as tiny, breakout-looking sores, often red and scaly. They often appear after infections such as strep throat, and although they’re quite small/mild, they can lead to more severe psoriasis forms.
Some types of psoriasis form in the skin’s folds or creases — think armpits, groin, butt area, or underboob area. Unlike other psoriasis manifestations, this one appears as smooth patches of skin irritation. Things like hot weather, sweating, and additional friction along the skin folds can often worsen psoriasis.
Among the less common varieties is pustular psoriasis, which mainly manifests as blisters filled with pus along different parts of the body. Although it differs in appearance, psoriasis treatment for this type can actually be similar — things like vitamin D, steroid creams, coal tar, and light treatment are all recommended.
Perhaps the most severe form is erythrodermic psoriasis, a type that affects your entire body. In this scenario, the plaques and lesions occur all over your body — almost everywhere on your skin.
Can you make psoriasis go away?
Since the reason your immune system acts up and overproduces skin cells is relatively unknown, there’s no cure for it. Nonetheless, treating psoriasis is more than possible. Psoriasis treatment involves a number of different approaches, from topical skincare like salicylic acid to lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy diet.
How do you permanently treat psoriasis? What is the best psoriasis treatment?
1. Dietary Supplements for Treating Psoriasis
While supplements may get a bad wrap, the National Psoriasis Foundation has recommended fish oil, Oregon grape, milk thistle, and aloe vera plant extract as some of the ways one can treat mild psoriasis at home.
2. Moisturize religiously
Another effective treatment is using moisturizer on affected areas. Having dry skin is one of the main symptoms of this disease, exposure to environmental factors as well as lack of moisture can only make symptoms worse.
3. Hello, aloe vera!
Does your psoriasis give you inflamed, sensitive skin? Try applying aloe vera on the patches to improve symptoms. Aloe vera has famed wound healing properties and anti-inflammatory properties as well.
4. Try a soothing bath
Psoriasis and similar health conditions can no doubt cause a ton of stress on top of other things you might go through. The good news? A warm, relaxing bath can not only help you relax inside but alleviate psoriatic patches, too. Add some oatmeal, bath oil, or even olive oil to your tub and apply moisturizer afterward to really double down on the hydration.
5. Go for Ultraviolet Therapy
Ultraviolet light therapy involves exposing parts of the skin to the sun’s rays. And no, we don’t mean heading to a tanning bed — simply sitting outside under the sun for 10-15 minutes can do wonders. Unlike other treatment options, this one might be the most accessible. Do be careful about getting too much sun and always wear protective clothing or sunscreen with SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30++ on unaffected areas.
6. Skip the Liquor
Did you know that when some people drink alcohol, it triggers their whole immune system and causes psoriatic flare-ups? A 2015 study seems to suggest as much. If you think this is you, then you may want to consider reducing your alcohol intake.
7. Watch Your Weight
Finally, peer-reviewed studies show a significant link between obesity and increased risk for psoriasis. Similarly, losing weight has also been said to help alleviate symptoms of the disease.
In order to lose weight healthily, you can try frequent exercise, eating more protein and vegetables, and reducing your intake of simple carbohydrates.
Although psoriasis is considered a chronic condition, that doesn’t mean there aren’t multiple ways that you can alleviate symptoms each day. Plenty of accessible home remedies can be used to treat the irritated patches of skin — some of them you may even find in your home.
We hope this guide has helped you better understand this condition and the myriad of ways it can be managed. Have any questions? Leave a comment below.
Joey is an AB Psychology graduate of the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod. Her life’s passions include writing, film, and spending hours on end binge-watching fashion vloggers on Youtube.