Psoriasis is a commonly-seen skin disorder that basically affects the normal life cycle of the skin cells. This condition results in the over-development of skin cells on its surface. This causes the skin to thicken and form scaly texture that causes it to become itchy and, at time, painful.
This is a chronic (long-term) skin condition with the signs and symptoms alternating between mild and severe.
The main goal of any psoriasis treatment is to halt the over-production of skin cells. Although, there is no cure for this skin condition there are various treatment methods that have helped to relieve the signs and symptoms considerable.
Signs and Symptoms of Psoriasis
- Reddish scaly skin
- Dry scaling spots (mostly seen in children)
- Cracked and bleeding skin
- Soreness, burning and itching senstation
- Ridged/pitted nails
- Stiff or swollen joints
Psoriasis can be in the mildest form as dandruff-like spots or it can be severe and affect major parts of the surface of the skin on the body.
Types of Psoriasis
There are several types of psoriasis, such as:
- Plaque psoriasis – This is the most common type of psoriasis, which is results in reddish and dry lesions (plaques) on skin that are covered in silvery scales. This tends to be painful and itchy. This psoriasis occurs almost anywhere on the body, including the soft tissues around the genitals and the inside of the mouth.
- Nail psoriasis – This type of psoriasis is seen affecting the toenails and fingernails. This causes abnormal mail growth, pitting and discoloration of the nails. This also causes the affected nails to become loose and even crumble.
- Scalp psoriasis – Psoriasis that occurs on the scalp can be seen as reddish itchy patches of skin. These may also extend well beyond the hairline. Flakes of dead skin on the scalp and shoulders might be commonly seen, especially after scratching the scalp.
- Inverse psoriasis – This is mostly seen affecting the skin on the armpit and the genitals, under the breasts (in women), etc. This is mostly seen as smooth areas of reddish inflamed skin. Friction and sweating tend to worsen this type of psoriasis. Fungal infections are also known to cause this psoriasis.
Causes of Psoriasis
Although the exact cause for development of psoriasis is still unknown, extensive research has shown that it is mostly related to an immune system malfunction that causes the excessive growth of skin cells on its surface.
There are certain factors that have been identified as being a trigger for psoriasis, these are:
- Infections (skin infection, strep throat, etc)
- Skin damage (injury)
- Cold weather
- Alcohol abuse
- Certain medicinal drugs
The main aim of any type of psoriasis treatment is to:
- Stop excessive growth of skin cells
- Reduce inflammation and formation of plaque
- Remove scaly skin and make the affected skin smooth
There are mainly three types of treatment techniques normally used to treat psoriasis, these are:
These are in the form of skin ointments, creams or lotions that are meant to be applied to the affected skin. These are very effective in controlling the signs of mild to moderate forms of psoriasis. At times, in case of more severe forms of psoriasis, these topical medications are often combined with other treatment techniques to make them more effective.
The most common topical treatments for psoriasis include:
- Topical creams – These are powerful anti-inflammatory medicinal creams that are useful for treating mild to moderate cases of psoriasis. These work to slow down the cell life cycle and prevent over-production of skin cells by the immune system. These also help in reducing the inflammation and also help relieve itching.
- Vitamin D derivatives – These are the synthetic Vitamin D substances that help in slowing the growth of skin cells. These are often combined with other topical medications or psoriasis treatment techniques.
- Topical retinoids – These are usually used to treat acne and sun-damaged skin, however, certain topical retinoids are designed specially to treat psoriasis. This is also used to slow down cell growth as well as reduce inflammation of the affected skin.
This form of psoriasis treatment technique uses ultraviolet (artificial or natural) light. This mimics the effects of sunlight in a controlled manner to facilitate making the skin smooth.
These are some common light therapies used for treatment of psoriasis:
- Sunlight – UV (ultraviolet) rays are the wavelength of light that are specifically targeted to destroy the abnormal T-cells in the skin. This slows down the life cycles of cells while reducing inflammation and scaling of skin.
- UV-B phototherapy – Controlled bursts of targeted UV-B rays from an artificial light source can help improve the signs and symptoms of mild to moderate psoriasis effectively. These are mostly used to treat large and single patches of affected skin.
- Excimer Laser – This is another innovative form of light therapy, most useful for treating mild to moderate psoriasis cases. This innovative laser light therapy focuses only on the affected portion of the skin while leaving the surrounding healthy skin without any damage or side-effects.
Oral medications/Injections – In case your psoriasis is severe and other treatment techniques have failed to successfully control the symptoms then the doctor might prescribe certain oral medications or injections in order to treat the signs of severe psoriasis.
These are the most commonly used oral medications and injections used in treatment of psoriasis:
- Retinoids – These are mainly vitamin A derivatives that help in slowing down the excessive production of skin cells by the immune system.
- Biologics – These are specially designed drugs that are meant to inhibit the malfunctioning immune system and help control the over-production of skin cells by the body. These are given in the form of intravenous injections for patients who have been unsuccessful with the other psoriasis treatment methods.
It is most important to choose a highly-experienced and well-trained dermatologist in order to treat the signs and symptoms of psoriasis effectively and successfully.