Maybe you’ve been living with psoriasis for a while, frustrated with trying different methods to treat your dry, cracking skin. Or maybe you’re a newcomer to this disease and are seeking education on how to manage the patches of scaly skin that have started to appear on your elbows or scalp. Either way, it’s time to get some new tools in your belt to provide effective relief for the symptoms of psoriasis that are plaguing you.
There are a few kinds of psoriasis (“sore-EYE-uh-sis”), but the most common type is plaque psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune skin disease that usually manifests as patches of red, thick, and inflamed skin covered by silvery or white scales. These patches are usually tender or itchy and tend to appear on your elbows, knees, scalp, back, hands, and feet, although they can also be found on your mouth, nails, and genital area. Sometimes, psoriasis sufferers also have a form of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriasis occurs due to a malfunction in the way your body produces and gets rid of skin cells. Typically, your skin cells are produced deep in the skin and rise slowly to the surface over a period of a month to eventually fall off, making space for new skin cells. Psoriasis causes these skin cells to rise rapidly over just a few days, creating a buildup of skin cells that develop into the scales associated with psoriasis.
It’s important to know that psoriasis is not contagious. It seems to be passed down through families, usually first appearing in people from the ages of 15-35. The patches can come and go, and common triggers include stress, alcohol, certain medications, dry skin, infections, and injury.
So, is it possible to get relief from the symptoms of psoriasis? Yes! Once you get diagnosed with psoriasis (this is best done by having your doctor biopsy a part of the affected skin), it’s time to take action. The most common treatments for psoriasis are oral medicines, light therapy, changes in diet, and topical treatments. Let’s explore these options.
There are a variety of topical treatments that you can use for mild to moderate psoriasis. Some of them are over-the-counter medications easily purchased at your drug store, while other, stronger topicals are by prescription only. Many of these topical medications are effective scalp psoriasis treatments to help with the dandruff-like scales on your head that so many psoriasis sufferers find embarrassing. These psoriasis creams and ointments include vitamin D3, salicylic acid, anthralin, corticosteroids, retinoids, moisturizers, or coal tar (which can be found in a shampoo).
Your doctor may decide to treat your psoriasis through the use of oral medication for a short period of time. The most common psoriasis medications are methotrexate, cyclosporine (Sandimmune), and retinoids. They work to either lower the immune system or reduce skin cell production.
Biologics are derived from living organisms like plants or animals. They are delivered by injection or intravenous (IV) infusion. Biologics work by targeting and reducing the overactive parts of the immune system to lessen the production of skin cells and thus decrease inflammation.
Your doctor might suggest using light therapy (or phototherapy), which exposes your skin to either ultraviolet (UV) light or natural light. The light kills the white blood cells that are attacking your healthy skin cells and causing the quick skin cell growth. It’s important to have a doctor administer this therapy, as too much light could further inflame your psoriasis or increase your risk of skin cancer.
Certain foods might be triggering to your psoriasis. Reducing or eliminating these foods can help decrease your psoriasis flare-ups. Because psoriasis is an inflammatory disease, limiting inflammatory foods can provide some relief. These foods include dairy, red meat, refined sugar, foods with gluten, and processed foods. Alcohol and saturated fats can also be a trigger for psoriasis flare-ups. While reducing your saturated fat intake, increase the amount of lean proteins with Omega-3 fatty acids found in certain fish and plants like salmon, flax seeds, and walnuts. Stress and smoking are also associated with psoriasis outbreaks. Quitting smoking and learning how to reduce and manage your stress can be effective in providing relief.
If you suspect you have psoriasis or need to develop a treatment plan for your psoriasis, contact the experienced dermatologists at Vanguard Dermatology. Located in the greater New York City area, Vanguard is committed to helping you find the treatments that will provide the most relief and reduction in flare-ups for your psoriasis.