Psoriasis, maybe you’ve heard of it recently since Kim Kardashian has recently been diagnosed with it, Cameron Diaz has had it for several years too, I’ve known about it for a while now as one of my aunts has it. Here are some of the facts about it.
Psoriasis is a noncontagious common skin condition that causes rapid skin cell reproduction resulting in red, dry patches of thickened skin. The dry flakes and skin scales are thought to result from the rapid buildup of skin cells. Doctors think it probably occurs when the body’s immune system mistakes healthy cells for dangerous substances. Psoriasis commonly affects the skin of the elbows, knees, and scalp. The condition is considered a non-curable, chronic skin condition. It has a variable course, periodically improving and worsening. Sometimes psoriasis may clear for years and stay in remission.
The exact cause remains unknown. There may be a combination of factors, including genetic predisposition and environmental factors. It is common for psoriasis to be found in members of the same family. The immune system is thought to play a major role. Despite research over the past 30 years looking at many triggers, the initial and master “switch” that turns psoriasis on is still a mystery but here are some of the thought of contributing factors:
- Bacteria or viral infections, including strep throat and upper respiratory infections
- Dry air or dry skin
- Injury to the skin, including cuts, burns, and insect bites
- Some medicines, including antimalaria drugs, beta-blockers, and lithium
- Too little sunlight
- Too much sunlight (sunburn)
- Too much alcohol
There are many effective treatment choices for psoriasis. The best treatment is individually determined by the treating physician and depends, in part, on the type of disease, the severity, and the total body area involved.
For mild disease that involves only small areas of the body (like less than 10% of the total skin surface), topical (skin applied) creams, lotions, and sprays may be very effective and safe to use. Occasionally, a small local injection of steroids directly into a tough or resistant isolated psoriasis plaque may be helpful.
For moderate to severe disease that involves much larger areas of the body (like 20% or more of the total skin surface), topical products may not be effective or practical to apply. These cases may require systemic or total body treatments such as pills, light treatments, or injections. Stronger medications usually have greater associated possible risks.
Psoriasis is a life-long condition that can be controlled with treatment. It may go away for a long time and then return. With appropriate treatment, it usually does not affect your general physical health.
It is important to bear in mind that, as with any medical condition, all medications carry possible side effects. No medication is 100% effective for everyone, and no medication is 100% safe. The decision to use any medication requires thorough consideration and discussion with your physician. The risks and potential benefit of medications have to be considered for each type of psoriasis and the individual patient. Some patients are not bothered at all by their skin symptoms and may not want any treatment. Other patients are bothered by even small patches of psoriasis and want to keep their skin clear. Everyone is different and, therefore, treatment choices also vary depending on the patient’s goals and expressed wishes.