Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition characterised by skin cells that multiply up to ten times faster than normal. The extra skin cells form thick, silvery scales and itchy, dry, red patches that are sometimes painful.
It typically occurs on the knees, elbows and scalp, and can also affect the torso, palms and soles of the feet. Although it is not contagious, Psoriasis is known to run in families. It can be seen in people of any age, but most commonly patients are first diagnosed in their early adult years.
Psoriasis patches can range from a few spots of dandruff-like scaling on the scalp to major eruptions that cover large areas.
Most types of psoriasis go through cycles, flaring for a few weeks or months, then subsiding for a time or even going into complete remission.
The cause of psoriasis is not fully known, but a combination of elements including genes, environmental factors and defects in immune regulation, are thought to play major roles.
Factors that may trigger psoriasis include infections, such as strep throat, stress, cold weather, injury to the skin, smoking and alcohol.
While there is currently no cure, the condition can be managed with treatments and lifestyle measures. Ongoing research is actively making progress on finding better treatments and a possible cure in the future.
Signs & Symptoms
Psoriasis signs and symptoms can vary from person to person depending on the type they have, but may include one or more of the following:
- Red patches of skin covered with loose, silvery scales
- Small scaling spots (commonly seen in children)
- Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
- Itching, burning or soreness
- Thickened, pitted or discoloured nails
- Swollen and stiff joints
- Plaques of scales or crust on the scalp
Prevention and Treatment
Although treatments are based on the type and severity of psoriasis and the areas of skin affected, the traditional approach is to start with the mildest treatments and then progress to stronger ones only if necessary. The goal is to find the most effective way to slow cell turnover with the fewest possible side effects.
Medical treatments include:
- Topical treatments such as soap substitutes and moisturisers, including products like Silcock's Base and Elave for mild to moderate psoriasis
- Light Therapy (Phototherapy) for moderate psoriasis
- Vitamin D-based treatment — available in creams, ointments and lotions
- Oral or injected medications for moderate to severe disease
- Biologics — drugs that alter the immune system for severe psoriasis
Self Help Measures
- Take daily baths to help remove scales and calm inflamed skin. Add Dead Sea salts, Epsom salts, bath oil or colloidal oatmeal to lukewarm water.
- Pat your skin dry after bathing or showering, then immediately apply a good quality, unscented moisturiser while your skin is still moist. During cold, dry weather, you may need to apply a moisturiser several times a day.
- Coal tar may help reduce appearance and decrease flaking in psoriasis. It is available in shampoos, bath solutions, and creams.
- Expose your skin to small amounts of sunlight. Avoid too much sun and always protect skin with an SPF of at least 30.
- Avoid psoriasis triggers, if possible. Infections, injuries to your skin, stress, smoking, alcohol and intense sun exposure can all worsen psoriasis.
- Combat stress through mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
If you are worried you or your child has psoriasis, please visit your local medical doctor for medical diagnosis and treatment.