Psoriasis is a disease that impacts an awful lot of people. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation there are more than 8 million Americans that have psoriasis. There are 125 million people worldwide—2 to 3 percent of the total population— that have psoriasis, according to the World Psoriasis Day consortium; and studies show that between 10 and 30 percent of people with psoriasis also develop psoriatic arthritis.” With these kinds of statistics, clearly our industry should pay attention to this non-contagious skin condition. And while no one out there would consider this to be just an aesthetic condition, it definitely impacts the way people look and impacts a lot of TSLMS members’ clients.
What is Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a skin disorder that is related to inflammation. And while inflammation may seem like the latest medical buzzword there is a reason that you are hearing so much about it. As noted by healthline.com, “Inflammation is your body’s way of protecting itself from infection, illness, or injury. As part of the inflammatory response, your body increases its production of white blood cells, immune cells, and substances called cytokines that help fight infection.” We will write more about inflammation in the future.
Psoriasis is chronic. It is an auto-immune disease that causes the growth of skin cells to speed up. It impacts more adults than children and an equal number of men and women. There are two different types of psoriasis, together known as psoriatic disease, according to the CDC:
Psoriasis causes patches of thick, red skin and silvery scales. Patches are typically found on the elbows, knees, scalp, lower back, face, palms, and soles of feet, but can affect other places (fingernails, toenails, and mouth). The most common type of psoriasis is called plaque psoriasis.
Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory type of arthritis that eventually occurs in 10% to 20% of people with psoriasis. It is different from the more common types of arthritis (such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis) and is thought to be related to the underlying problem of psoriasis.
Typically people notice the skin patches, but it is important to realize the other symptoms and recognize the whole disease when we see it.
Causes of Psoriasis
As a chronic disease it tends to come and go, but psoriasis is a disease that we now know has a genetic link, as explained by E-Medicine-Health.net:
The immune system plays a key role in psoriasis. In psoriasis, a certain subset of T lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) abnormally trigger inflammation in the skin as well as other parts of the body. These T cells produce inflammatory chemicals that cause skin cells to multiply as well as producing changes in small skin blood vessels, resulting ultimately in elevated scaling plaque of psoriasis.
Psoriasis has a genetic basis and can be inherited. Some people carry genes that make them more likely to develop psoriasis. Just because a person has genes that would make him more likely to have psoriasis doesn’t mean he will have the disease. About one-third of people with psoriasis have at least one family member with the disease. Certain factors trigger psoriasis to flare up in those who have the genes.
Environmental factors such as smoking, sunburns, streptococcal sore throat, and alcoholism may affect psoriasis by increasing the frequency of flares. Injury to the skin has been known to trigger psoriasis. For example, a skin infection, skin inflammation, or even excessive scratching can activate psoriasis. A number of medications have been shown to aggravate psoriasis.
The point is that while you may not be able to prevent psoriasis, there are plenty of lifestyle choices that you can make to keep it at bay. There are also treatments that can work when psoriasis flares up.
The National Psoriasis Foundation has the most up-to-date and comprehensive information available on the treatment of this chronic condition. They point out, on their website, that it can be difficult and complicated to find treatment that works because each case is a little bit different. Frequently people need a combination of treatments, rather than just one. They point out that treatments fall into one of several categories:
- Oral Treatments
- Complementary and Alternative Therapies
WebMD also has a list of potentially effective home and alternative remedies for psoriasis flare-ups that include using apple cider vinegar and petroleum jelly as topical relief agents. And, despite all of our warnings about the dangers of sun, getting some UVB rays can help (limit the exposure to about 10 minutes a day).
There are, of course, prescriptions that we can give to clients that will help as well as medications that do not require a prescription, notes the American Academy of Dermatology Association. These include coal tar, which is an active ingredient in many psoriasis creams and shampoos, hydrocortisone cream creams and ointments and products with salicylic acid which help to soften scales. Whatever direction a person with psoriasis takes to help their flare-ups will likely mean some real trial and error – but these are likely to help.