What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease that is characterized by the growth of new skin cells too quickly. As a result, new skin cells will continue to accumulate on the surface to form red, thick, and scaly patches.
This condition includes autoimmune diseases whose exact cause is unknown. Apart from problems with the immune system, psoriasis usually appears to be triggered by a variety of factors both from within and from the environment.
This disease is a recurrence. That is, the symptoms of the disease can disappear or recur later. Apart from that, there is no cure for psoriasis. But do not worry because there are many drugs that can help control the symptoms.
How common is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is quite common and usually occurs in adults. Men and women are equally susceptible to psoriasis. However, you can minimize your chances of developing psoriasis by reducing the risk factors.
Signs & Symptoms
What are the signs and symptoms of psoriasis?
The signs and symptoms of psoriasis can vary from person to person. Usually this condition depends on the type of disease you have, which are:
Reporting from the American Academy of Dermatology, about 90 percent of people affected by psoriasis suffer from this one type. Plaque psoriasis is a skin disease characterized by:
- Red spots on the skin with thick silver sisk
- A dry, thin, silvery-white layer covering the plaque
- Most often appears on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back
- Dry and cracked skin to bleed
- Itching and burning in the affected area
This type of skin problem can also spread to the toenails and hands. The following are various symptoms that appear when the disease spreads to the nails:
- Small indentation on the nail
- Nails are rough, thickened, and tend to be damaged
- The appearance of a pile of skin cells under the nail
- The appearance of white, yellow or brown under the nails
This type of psoriasis is characterized by the appearance of small bumps on the skin suddenly. Usually the lump covered most of the body, legs, and arms.
Even sometimes, bumps also appear on the face, scalp, and ears. The bump usually looks like:
- Small and scaly
This condition most often strikes those in young adults and children. Usually this condition is triggered by bacterial infections such as strep throat.
Various symptoms can come and go for life or even only appear once in a lifetime.
This type usually appears and develops in areas of the skin that stick together such as the armpits, genitals, and buttocks folds. Generally this type of skin problem is triggered by a fungal infection in the skin.
Usually its appearance is marked by signs and symptoms such as:
- Red patches that look smooth on the skin
- Inflammation of the skin which will worsen when rubbing and sweating
- The appearance of a very thin silvery white layer
- The skin feels sore
This condition is usually characterized by a variety of symptoms such as:
- Red and swollen skin accompanied by bumps containing pus
- The skin feels very painful
- The appearance of brown spots and sometimes scaly when the lumps festering dry
Pustular psoriasis causes the sufferer to experience pain during activities especially those who use the hands or feet.
This type of psoriasis is the most rare case of attack. This one health problem usually makes it grow filled with flaky red rashes that itch and feel like burning.
In addition to inflammation of the skin, this condition usually makes the joint swollen and painful. This disease can attack any joint in the body.
Although not paralyzing, this one type can make stiff and damaged joints gradually. As a result, a person at high risk of permanent joint deformity.
There may be other symptoms and signs not mentioned above. If you have concerns about the symptoms of this disease, immediately consult a doctor.
When should I see a doctor?
If you feel you have psoriasis, see your doctor right away for a check-up. Talk to your doctor if your illness:
- It goes on and on and makes you sick and uncomfortable
- Makes you worry about your appearance
- Causing joint problems, such as pain, swelling or that interfere with daily activities
- Difficult to do the daily routine
Seek immediate medical advice if signs and symptoms worsen or do not improve with treatment. That's the sign, you need a different drug or combination of other treatments to help control it.
What causes psoriasis?
There are two possibilities that can cause this skin disease, namely:
Disorders of the body's immune system
Experts do not yet know exactly what causes psoriasis. However, this condition is strongly suspected due to disorders of the immune system.
The immune system contains white blood cells called T lymphocytes to detect and fight foreign substances such as viruses or bacteria.
Unfortunately due to an error, T cells actually attack healthy cells as if they were fighting a wound or infection.
This attack causes the body to make new skin cells more often than it should. As a result, there are heaps of extra skin cells on the skin.
Therefore, psoriasis is a health problem which is also referred to as an autoimmune disease.
The scientists found that people with certain genes were more likely to develop psoriasis.
However, this does not apply to everyone. The reason is, there are people who have this disease without having these genes.
In addition, there are also people who have the psoriasis gene but have never been affected by health problems on this one.
Therefore, scientists believe that a person needs to be exposed to the trigger before the disease appears.
What increases my risk for psoriasis?
Here are various factors that increase a person's risk for skin disease this one, namely:
Psoriasis is a family inherited disease. Having a family or parents with psoriasis increases your risk of developing the same disease.
The more family members who have this disease the more likely you are to be affected.
Viral and bacterial infections
People with viral and bacterial infections in their bodies are more susceptible to psoriasis than those who are not. This condition is especially vulnerable in children and young adults who are often exposed to recurrent infections, especially strep throat.
Stress can weaken your immune system. Therefore, it is not surprising that excess stress is one of the factors that can increase the risk of psoriasis.
People who are overweight are also at high risk for psoriasis. Because, obesity stimulates inflammatory triggering factors in the body. In addition, lesions in psoriasis are also easy to develop in the folds of the skin.
Smoking not only increases the risk of this one skin disease. However, smoking can also increase disease severity due to nicotine and tobacco content which can trigger inflammation.
The various factors that have been mentioned are the most common. However, do not rule out the possibility you can get this disease without having one of the factors mentioned.
What are the triggers for psoriasis?
This autoimmune skin disease can appear at any time if you:
- Having sores on the skin such as blisters or insect bites
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Drastic hormonal changes occur especially in women (for example during puberty and menopause)
- Take certain medications such as lithium, antimalarial, anti-inflammatory, and beta blockers
- Frequent infections such as strep throat
- Experiencing extreme weather changes
Everyone has different triggers for psoriasis. Therefore, the sufferer must know what factors trigger the emergence of symptoms to avoid it.
Diagnosis & treatment
What are the usual tests for psoriasis?
Physical examination and biopsy are the two main procedures for diagnosing psoriasis.
The doctor will usually do a physical examination and medical history in advance to check this condition. The doctor will examine the skin, scalp, and nails to see possible diseases from the symptoms indicated.
In addition, the doctor will also ask for a family health history. The goal is to check whether you have a decreased risk of psoriasis from your family.
If needed, the doctor will usually take a small sample of the skin to be examined. Before taking a skin sample, the doctor will first give local anesthesia. Then, the sample will be examined under a microscope for further investigation.
What are my treatment options for psoriasis?
Psoriasis cannot be cured but treatment can help control the symptoms. Treatments are generally divided into three categories, namely topical, oral or injection drugs, and light therapy.
The following various topical medications that are usually prescribed are:
This medicine can reduce inflammation and itching. A mild dose of ointment is for sensitive areas such as the face or skin folds.
While strong doses are usually used to treat other areas that are smaller, less sensitive, and more difficult to treat.
This drug is a derivative of vitamin A to help reduce inflammation. You need to be careful when wearing it.
Because the side effects of this drug make the skin more sensitive when exposed to the sun and easily irritated. For that, you need to use sunscreen when outdoors activities.
This drug helps inhibit skin cell growth. In addition, anthralin can also remove scales, making the skin smoother.
However, this one topical medication can also irritate the skin. Therefore, be sure to read the instructions for use before applying it to the skin.
Salicylic acid helps shed dead skin cells and reduce crust. Usually this drug is available in the form of shampoo or ointment.
Vitamin D analogues
Vitamin D analog is an artificial vitamin D product that helps slow the growth of skin cells. Calcipotriene is a prescription cream that contains vitamin D analogues to treat mild to moderate psoriasis.
Calcineurin inhibitors aim to reduce inflammation and plaque buildup. Although effective, this drug is usually not recommended for long-term use. The reason can increase the risk of skin cancer and lymphoma.
Coal tar or coal tar helps reduce crust, itching, and inflammation of the skin. Usually this drug is available in the form of shampoo, cream and oil. However, coal tar cannot be used for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Moisturizer is not going to help cure this one skin disease. However, this care product keeps the skin moist.
That way, the skin will avoid dryness which can make it more itchy. To lock in skin moisture, use immediately after bathing while the skin is still half dry.
Drugs or injection
For people with moderate to severe disease, the doctor will give oral medication or injections. These medicines will directly enter the body and the bloodstream system.
As for various drugs that are usually prescribed namely:
- Cyclosporine (Sandimmune)
- Drugs that change the immune system (biological)
Light therapy is an additional treatment procedure for psoriasis that is often recommended. This treatment procedure usually uses natural or artificial ultraviolet light.
Light therapy can help kill white blood cells that are too active in attacking healthy skin cells. The doctor will use ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) light to help reduce symptoms. The type and amount of therapy is adjusted to the severity and condition of your skin.
In addition, light therapy is also a complementary treatment for this health problem. The goal is to make the symptoms of this autoimmune disease no longer hinder your activities.
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies to treat psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an incurable disease. However, a combination of doctor's medication and home care can help alleviate the condition. Here are various things you can do:
- Bathing regularly to remove crust and moisturize the skin
- Bask in the sun in the morning
- Do not drink alcoholic beverages
- Applying aloe to the skin to relieve inflammation
- Take fish oil supplements to reduce inflammation from the inside
- Limit eating foods that trigger inflammation such as red meat and dairy products
Do not hesitate to consult a doctor if the symptoms experienced are very disturbing. In addition, join a support group of people with psoriasis and professionals so you don't feel alone.
If you have questions, consult your doctor for the best solution for your problem.
Ferri, Fred. Ferri's Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Print. Page 131
https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/psoriasis.html accessed January 16th, 2016
Psoriasis http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/psoriasis/basics/causes/con-20030838 Accessed January 16th, 2016
https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/scaly-skin/psoriasis/who-gets-psoriasis-and-what-causes-it#Treatment accessed on April 29th 2019
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/psoriasis/ accessed on April 29th 2019
Date of review: May 3, 2019 | Last Edited: May 3, 2019