Psoriasis is a chronic disease that infects about 2-3% of the world population. The condition’s most important characteristic is that skin cells develop very rapidly and form skin plates that are thick, white and shiny or red and are in different sizes.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease with predominantly skin manifestations. It refers to our immune system’ malfunction – i.e. the "hyperactivity" that attacks the skin cells. Usually plates appear on the knees, elbows, scalp, hands, feet or lower part of the back. Psoriasis can last for a long period of time, often comes back and can be completely unpredictable. Symptoms may appear all of a sudden, then the condition improves and rashes disappear completely (we call it remission). This cycle is repeated constantly. For mild to moderate psoriasis, continuous treatment is recommended to avoid relapse.
Psoriasis - formation
Skin cells in healthy individuals are substituted every 28 days. In a person with psoriasis, this renewal happens every 5 - 6 days and this leads to inflammation of the skin - very itchy red plaques and the buildup of dead skin (squamos) throughout the body (most often on the arms, torso, knees, feet, nails, face, scalp).
Psoriasis occurs when the immune system sends wrong signals to the skin cells of the body, prompting them to divide too fast. This builds up too many cells which the body cannot get rid of. Excess cells begin to accumulate on the surface of the scalp and form scaly plaques.
Triggering factors and causes
Although several risk factors for the onset of skin disease have been identified, a genetic link has also been found. People who have psoriasis in the family are much more at risk of developing the disease themselves. With people at risk, the disease can be unlocked by some kind of skin injury such as burn, cuts or bruising.
Stress can also trigger psoriasis or aggravate a pre-existing condition. People suffering from psoriasis should try to minimize the stress they experience.
Medicines – there are cases when medicines can also become a trigger of the disease.
Skin injuries - this is known as the Koebner Phenomenon. As a result of the trauma, new skin lesions appear and develop in people who already suffer from skin disease.
Others - possible trigger factors may be vaccines, sunburn and healthy skin scratches.
Psoriasis in children
Although more common for adult age, psoriasis can also develop in childhood. With toddlers, the symptoms are the same as with adults. It can be difficult to stop a child from scratching their heads, so usually doctors prescribe anti-scratch medicines.
Types of psoriasis
Psoriasis can appear all over the body, mainly along:
One variety is scalp psoriasis. We can identify all over the scalp thicker skin areas with rough and flaky skin or areas that appear to be covered with dandruff. Unlike normal dandruff, however, psoriasis plaque on the scalp has a silver glow and dry flakes. Psoriasis can affect the entire scalp or develop only in certain spots.
Scalp psoriasis symptoms
Scalp psoriasis can affect the head, neck, forehead and ears. If in a mild form, symptoms are small flaky spots. However, scalp psoriasis may be quite serious condition with itching, flakes and red spots all over the scalp. Some patients even have a burn feeling on their scalp.
When the condition is severe, complications may occur. One of them is hair loss but usually, this is a temporary result. The explanation is that hair loss is not due to the disease itself but to the fact that we constantly clean the scaly plaques or scratch our head as a result of itching. If you over-comb, bleeding and infection may also occur.
When to see the doctor
Our decision when to seek a medical exam by dermatologist depends on the severity of the symptoms. It is always better to consult a doctor instead of deciding on the therapy yourselves.
How to diagnose psoriasis
Dermatologists can diagnose the condition only by examining the rash on the scalp. In some cases, a skin biopsy is needed to rule out other diseases. The medical specialist will prescribe treatment based on examination findings, blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging or x-ray.
Psoriatic arthritis - a complication of psoriasis
30 percent of people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis if the condition is not treated. Over time, this type of arthritis worsens, and the affected joints can be permanently damaged or deformed. Patients not treated for the first 2 years of psoriasis appearance would then face much more serious problems.
The condition manifests itself during crises when we see aggravation of symptoms. It is difficult to predict when the next crisis will be. After its start, it can be managed by medications, experts explain to Medical News Today.
Psoriatic arthritis can also be the result of an infection that activates the immune system. Both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are due to an overactive immune system that does not work properly and starts attacking the body's own tissues with inflammation instead of fighting infection.
Psoriatic crises vary in duration. Symptoms can be both mild and quite severe. It’s crucial that doctors identify the crisis in time and then choose the most efficient treatment.
Symptoms and complications
Psoriatic arthritis can affect any joint, most often these are arms, feet, elbows, knees, spine, and neck. Symptoms may vary from case to case. They can be mild and slow to evolve, they can also appear suddenly and quite aggressively.
When psoriasis evolves into psoriatic arthritis?
We have the following symptoms:
- Stiffness, pain and throbbing in the joints;
- Tendon softening, pain and swelling;
- Swollen fingers and toes;
- Difficulty in movement;
- Stiffness and fatigue after getting up;
- Nail changes;
- Red and painful eyes.
About 80 percent of people with psoriatic arthritis have suffered from psoriasis before that. Although the two conditions are closely related, there is no co-relation in the severity of the symptoms between them. It’s not obligatory that a person suffering from severe psoriasis will have severe psoriatic arthritis, and vice versa.
People with joint pain who think they may have psoriatic arthritis should consult a doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment is crucial for limiting joint damage. There is no specific test for psoriatic arthritis. The medical specialist will make the diagnosis based on examination findings, blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging or X-ray. Primary diagnosis can be done by a doctor or a dermatologist. The patient should then be referred to a rheumatologist for further tests.
So far, there is no cure for psoriasis. However, there are many prescription drugs that can control the disease, although skin rashes do occur from time to time. The type of therapy may depend on the severity of the symptoms.
The psoriasis products - in the form of medical shampoo or lubricant, can be applied topically only to part of the scalp. The problem with shampoos and products containing salicylic acid is that it can irritate the skin and weaken hair, leading to hair loss. Products containing tar are also used.
Therapy with drugs
Psoriasis therapy may include medicines that are taken orally and affect the whole body. The new medicines treat specific molecules in the immune system. While targeting certain cells, these cells correct the overactive role of the immune system which triggers the extra cell production.
Drugs containing steroids can also be prescribed to reduce inflammation and itching. However, the use of these drugs may be risky because they slow down the immune system and the patient is at increased risk of infection.
In some cases, the dermatologist may recommend therapy with light. The scalp is irradiated with UVB light using a special lamp, the procedure being repeated at regular intervals. The therapy is performed under the supervision of a doctor to avoid burns or overdoses. People suffering from psoriasis should avoid lamps and artificial tanning beds as they emit a significant amount of UVA rays which can be dangerous.
Some patients say they have received relief from natural products. However, the results are different and the patient should always consult a doctor first about their use.
Natural products that have been efficient in treatment:
- Fish oil: Contains omega-3 fatty acids, which the body turns into anti-inflammatory substances;
- Curcumin: It is found in the turmeric herb, known for its anti-inflammatory properties;
- Probiotics - found in yogurt as well as in some fresh milk;
- Vitamin D - Helps for healthy and beautiful skin.
Psoriasis and diet
So far, there is no evidence that certain foods can make skin disease worse. Many people with psoriasis think that food affects their skin condition. However, no research has confirmed a cause and effect link.
Most of the medical professionals think that the best dietary advice that can be given to patients with psoriasis is a general one as for all the others:
Choose foods that contain minimum fats and sugars, eat more fruit and vegetables, lean meat and legumes. Apart from the diet, don’t forget about physical activities. Overweight may aggravate your condition and inhibit the medicine’s action. Pay attention also to the quantity of alcohol you drink as it can also aggravate this chronic skin condition.”
Doctors recommend that patients with psoriasis pay attention which foods are good and bad for them as individuals. If they notice that their skin is getting worse with a particular food, they can exclude it from their menu for a certain period of time and see if there is a change in their condition.
Over time, many foods have been cited as irritant factors - sugar, snacks, pasta, tomatoes, coffee, and eggs.
Of course, there are theories about foods that are beneficial for psoriasis. Herb teas, some fruit juices, fish oil supplements are in this group. So it is not surprising that there is a great deal of controversy among specialists and patients as to which food is actually beneficial and which is harmful for this skin disease.
However, if you decide to follow a diet, first consult your dermatologist. He will probably tell you that any diet that minimizes fast food and alcohol, is a good one.
- Treat your scalp carefully. Avoid vigorous washing and combing of your hair, as this can cause some bundles of hair to fall away, especially if it has become brittle as a result of therapy.
- Try not to scratch your scalp. Scratching can cause bleeding and may lead to infection.
- Moisten the scalp. This will not cure psoriasis, but it will improve the overall condition of the skin and how it looks.
- If you can, identify the irritants that trigger rashes. Try to limit them as much as possible.
Psoriasis - Truth or Lie:
1. Psoriasis is contagious: LIE!
2. Psoriasis is due to stress: LIE!
3. Psoriasis is sexually transmitted: LIE!
4. The onset of psoriasis may be associated with intense emotional experience or trauma: TRUTH
5. Psoriasis is due to poor hygiene: LIE!
6. When one is suffering from psoriasis, they must follow a special diet: LIE!
7. If I have psoriasis, I can't go to the hairdresser or put on a perfume: LIE!
7. The sun (in moderate doses) can help a person with psoriasis: TRUTH
8. Hot water relieves psoriasis itching: LIE!
9. Stress can unlock crises: TRUTH
10. Magnetizers can cure psoriasis: LIE!
11. There is still no cure for psoriasis: TRUTH!
12. Aloe vera cures psoriasis: LIE!
13. Balneotherapy is effective in psoriasis: TRUTH!
14. Psoriasis improves if you do not drink milk: LIE!
15 Remission is possible: TRUTH!
16. Psoriasis is treated only with creams: LIE!
17. Treatments have improved in recent years: TRUTH!
18. Biological therapies always cause serious side effects: LIE!
19. Psoriasis affects only the skin: LIE!
20. Psoriasis passes from generation to generation: LIE!