Top Tips for Soothing and Treating Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a common, chronic disease that can cause skin irritation. With more than 125 million people worldwide, or close to 3% of the global population, suffering from the illness, 8 million of those are Americans. Current studies show that anywhere between 10-30% of people with psoriasis will go on to develop psoriasis arthritis as well, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Informed readers are looking for early signs and symptoms, as well as the best ways to treat the disease.
Red, scaly patches, and itchiness are common signs that appear on elbows, knees, and even the scalp. Symptoms can flare up for a few days, weeks, or months and then cycle through into a remission period, although there is no known cure for psoriasis just yet. Signs and symptoms are specific to each person suffering from the disease. The most common ones, according to Mayo Clinic, include the appearance of thick, silvery scales; dry skin that can crack, bleed and/or itch; red spotting; a burning sensation or sore skin; nails that become thick or ridged; joints that begin to feel swollen and stiff; and small scaling spots commonly found in children suffering from psoriasis. Areas of the body that can be affected include the lower back, the soles of your feet, palms, and the most common areas – the outsides of elbows, knees, and the scalp, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Spots can appear as scaling that is similar to dandruff or it can really spread quite extensively over a larger area of the body.
Psoriasis does not always cause symptoms to show up in the earliest stages of the disease. Some people enjoy symptom-free living for many years until something in the environment triggers a flare-up. According to Mayo Clinic, some common triggers include skin infection or a strep throat infection; cold, dry weather; stress; smoking or being exposed to second-hand smoke; heavy use of alcohol; a skin injury such as a bad scrape, cut, or sunburn; specific medications such as lithium and high blood pressure medicine. Anyone can develop psoriasis at any age, with roughly 30% of cases with childhood onset. Stress, family history, and smoking are all risk factors that increase a person’s odds of developing the disease. The National Psoriasis Foundation indicates that psoriasis is closely associated with other major health conditions such as depression, diabetes, and heart disease.
As this time, treatments cannot cure but they can work to lessen symptoms. Mayo Clinic shares several types of topical therapy and these are usually the first course of action. Corticosteroids are medications that are often used to treat mild to moderate psoriasis via creams, lotions, sprays, and shampoos. Milder ointments are recommended for areas with more sensitive skin, like the face. Stronger ointments are often recommended for smaller, less-sensitive skin areas. Retinoids are often prescribed to be used via gel or cream. Salicylic acid can be used in shampoos or scalp creams to soothe scaling. Vitamin D can slow skin cell growth. Shampoo, cream, or oil that contains coal tar is reported to reduce scaling, soothe itchiness, and minimize inflammation. As with any medical information, it is always important to conduct plenty of research, study sources, and check in with accredited medical professionals. Some medications used to treat psoriasis are recommended to avoid for women who are pregnant or nursing. The Canadian Psoriasis Foundation shares that most topical treatments require a prescription so a doctor and pharmacist can easily be consulted.
Light or phototherapy is a repeated treatment used to treat moderate to severe psoriasis. Skin is exposed to a specific amount of natural or artificial ultraviolet light. Phototherapy can take place at home but medically supervised light therapy reduces the risk of developing skin cancer as a result of prolonged ultraviolet exposure. If unproperly used, light therapy can cause skin burns, increases chances of skin damage, and ultimately more challenging psoriasis symptoms.
As always, seeking the best medical information and support available for any medical condition is vital. Consulting trusted sources and checking in with a medical professional is key. Information about early signs and symptoms is important to know and treatments can offer hopeful, encouraging results for psoriasis.
Canadian Psoriasis Network
National Psoriasis Foundation
World Psoriasis Day Consortium