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Psoriasis

A common skin disease that effects the life cycle of skin cells. The usual cycle involves the new skin cells moving from the lower skin layer to the surface over the course of about a month. Once reaching the top layer they die and flake off. In cases of psoriasis this happens over the course of a few days. This speed up in cells regeneration can result in thick silvery scales and itchy dry, red patches that are sometimes painful.

Psoriasis is a chronic disease, with periods of remission or improvement. When combined with arthritis this can be quite disabling. There is no known cure, but treatments can help.


Signs & Symptoms

  • Red patches of skin with silvery scales
  • Small scaling spots, more common in children
  • Dry cracked skin that may bleed at times
  • Itchy burning skin which can be quite sore
  • Thickened, pitted, ridged nails
  • Swollen and stiff joints

Causes

Thought to be related to the immune system and white blood cells called T Cells. Normally these cells detect and fight off foreign substances. In Psoriasis sufferers the T cells attack healthy skin cells by mistake. This triggers an immune response that increases the production of healthy skin cells and more T cells. The result is dead skin cells that can't slough off quick enough for the new cells underneath, and build up in thick, scaly patches.


Triggers

  • Injury to the skin, cut scrape, bug bite, severe sunburn
  • Stress
  • Cold weather
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Certain medications including lithium, beat blockers and anti malarial drugs


Risk Factors

Thought to be genetic, more likely to suffer from Psoriasis if a family member has it.

  • Stress – has a significant impact on your immune system. May increase your risk if you have a high level of stress.
  • Smoking – increases your risk or developing the disease and also the severity.


Medical Treatment

  • Should aim to interrupt the cycle, and find the most effective way to slow cell turnover.
  • Topical treatments can help remove scales and smooth skin.
  • Ultra-violet light therapy has been known to help
  • Can be unpredictable. What works for one person may not for another. Skin may also become resistant to treatments.

Consult your doctor if your condition worsens or effects your daily life


Self care

  • Although not able to cure Psoriasis, self care can help improve the appearance of damaged skin.
  • Daily baths help remove scales and calm inflamed skin. Add a bath oil, oatmeal or dead sea salts and soak for at least 15 minutes.
  • Use a heavy ointment based moisturiser while skin is still moist from bathing. Body oils may also be beneficial as they prevent moisture from escaping from the skin. During cold, dry weather you may need to apply several times a day.
  • Identify your triggers and avoid if possible.
  • Manage stress and avoid drinking alcohol, which may decrease the effectiveness of some treatments.
  • As a chronic disease, sufferers may feel out of control. It helps to research and learn as much as possible about your condition, to help you manage the flare ups.
  • Follow recommendations by your health professional
  • Ensure make-up and skincare is appropriate for sensitive skin and don't apply to broken skin.
  • A support group can help you cope with flare-ups and provide information.

Nutritional Help

  • Essential fatty acids to help prevent dryness.
  • Zinc 50-100mg daily (do not exceed), healps with protein metabolism needed for healing.
  • Beta Carotene – protects skin tissue
  • Selenium a powerful antioxidant.
  • A good Viatmin B complex – anti stress and necessary for all cellular functions.
  • Vitamin C is important for formation of collagen and skin tissue. Also enhances the immune system.