Psoriasis is a long-term chronic skin condition characterized by thick silvery red patches on the skin due to the overproduction of skin cells. Normally, skin cells would grow and flake off gradually, about every four weeks. After that, new skin cells would grow to replace the skin’s outer layer after shedding. But in the case of a person suffering from psoriasis, new skin cells grow too quickly in days instead of weeks, and in turn, form thick patches on the skin called plaques.
Causes and Symptoms
Up to now, nobody knows the direct and exact cause of this medical problem. Some scientists believe that this condition is inherited, meaning it is passed down from the parents to their children. This can be accounted to the fact that more than one-third of the people with psoriasis have at least one family member with this same condition.
Other medical experts think that the immune system plays a role in the development of this disease, as there is an increase in the number of white blood cells that can be seen in the skin of a psoriasis patient. Another factor that can prove this theory is that psoriasis responds to medications that suppress the body’s immune function.
Apart from genetics and immune function, many other factors have been pointed to trigger the condition or make it worse. For one, it is believed that cold and dry weather can worsen the symptoms whereas warm and humid weather can improve the illness and alleviate the symptoms. Stress and anxiety have also been said to aggravate the condition, making the skin flare up more when a person is under pressure.
Moreover, certain medications including NSAIDs, beta-blockers and lithium, have been found to worsen symptoms of psoriasis, which is why it is imperative to inform one’s doctor about this condition so that he/she can prescribe medications that won’t exacerbate the condition.
Psoriasis can be treated through several ways. One is through topical treatments, which are ointments or solutions that are applied on the affected area of the skin to bring relief. These include salicylic acid that promotes shedding of the plaques, steroid-based creams that reduce inflammation, relieve itching, and inhibit the overproduction of skin cells, and calcipotriene topical ointment, which is very effective for psoriasis treatment when used in combination with a topical corticosteroid cream.
Another method of treating this skin problem is through light therapy. Moderate doses of sunlight can reduce lesions in people with psoriasis. Those with severe psoriasis conditions are advised to undergo light therapy, one of the most effective of which is psoralen with ultraviolet A (PUVA). It is important to note however that this treatment method can increase the risk of skin cancer. A less carcinogenic form of light therapy is the narrowband UVB therapy that is almost as effective as PUVA without the cancer risk.
Oral drugs have also been prescribed for psoriasis patients. One example is methotrexate, or the chemotherapy drug used to treat cancer. This medication can improve the condition dramatically but since it has long term side effects, blood tests are required before a doctor can prescribe this medicine.