Dry, itchy red patches on your body? You may be all too familiar with psoriasis, a painful and chronic condition where skin cells build up rapidly on the surface of the skin. While there isn’t a cure to get rid of symptoms of psoriasis for good, there are steps you can take for psoriasis skin care.
First, it’s important to get the definition of psoriasis straight. It’s not just a minor, temporary rash or breakout that’s causing you grief. It’s a serious and chronic disease. You need to know the symptoms of psoriasis and the causes of psoriasis – and what you can do to find relief.
When it comes to symptoms of psoriasis, what you typically see is red or pink patches of raised, thickened and scaling skin. Let’s look at the definition of psoriasis to understand exactly what’s occurring: Psoriasis is a common, long-lasting skin condition of scaling and inflammation that changes the lifecycle of skin cells. It causes the dead cells to build up on the surface of the epidermis, and form thick, silvery scales and dry, itchy red patches of inflamed skin that are often quite painful.
Here’s a breakdown of common symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic:
Psoriasis usually affects skin over the elbows, knees and scalp – basically sites of friction or abrasion or scratching. It can also appear as small, scaly bumps that form into “plaques” of raised skin. These can occur on skin anywhere on the body.
In fact, the disease may also affect the fingernails, toenails, and the soft tissues of the genitals, and inside the mouth as well. Sometimes the skin around affected joints can crack, so some people with psoriasis experience joint inflammation that produces symptoms of arthritis. This is called psoriatic arthritis.
One thing’s for sure when it comes to symptoms of psoriasis, these areas are itchy and uncomfortable, to say the least! If you pull off one of these dry white flakes of skin, it may cause a small blood spot on the skin, which is referred to as a diagnostic sign in psoriasis called the Auspitz sign. But please don’t pick…
Scalp psoriasis, too, is quite common, but often is confused with severed dandruff with its dry flakes and red areas. But treatment is similar for both conditions.
Is psoriasis contagious? People often worry they could spread the condition to family members. But it is not contagious. It can’t be spread by touch from person to person, and the psoriasis lesions are not infectious.
But the physical discomfort can be disabling for many people. The pain and itching can interfere with basic daily tasks, walking, even sleep. Plaques on the hands and feet can be so bad, they may prevent people from working, playing sports, or taking care of domestic business at home.
To complicate matters, people may feel self-conscious about their appearance. This can build up and result in a poor self-image and fear of public rejection and concerns about intimacy. All this psychological distress can lead to depression and social isolation.
With all these symptoms of psoriasis in mind, it’s important to take steps to find relief so this chronic condition won’t limit your life and activities.
Why does it happen? When it comes to the causes of psoriasis, the condition isn’t fully understood. Research suggests that it may be related to an immune system problem with the cells in your body, so the white blood cells. One cell in particular may be giving you grief – a T lymphocyte or T cell.
These cells travel throughout your body to detect and fight off foreign invaders like viruses or bacteria. But when you have psoriasis, the T cells attack healthy skin cells by mistake, as if they were trying to heal a wound or to fight an infection.
These overactive T cells trigger other immune responses which prompt the ongoing cycle in which new skin cells move to the outermost layer of skin too fast, in days rather than weeks. So the dead skin and white blood cells can’t slough off quickly enough, causing the buildup of thick, scaly patches. The cycle usually doesn’t stop unless treatment helps put it on pause.
Environmental factors play a role here. People with psoriasis will notice times when their skin flares up and gets worse, linked to a cold and dry climate, infections, stress (surprise, surprise!), dry skin, and taking certain medicines.
One thing to try to pinpoint is triggers of psoriasis. This way, you may be able to avoid triggers and bad flare-ups. They can vary from person to person, but these factors that may trigger psoriasis include:
Anyone and everyone can develop psoriasis. But there are certain things that can increase your risk. Here’s a rundown of factors to consider, reported by the Mayo Clinic:
Treatment for psoriasis depends on the type of disease, the severity, and the body area involved.
For mild disease where only small areas are affected, there are topical creams, lotions and sprays.
For moderate to severe disease affecting much larger areas of the body, topical products may not be effective or practical. In these cases, doctors often prescribe ultraviolet or other light treatments, or internal medications. Because topical therapy has no effect on psoriatic arthritis, these medications may be necessary to avoid joint deterioration.
Lifestyle measures may bring relief as well, improving the appearance and feel of damaged skin. Suggestions include:
Knowing the symptoms of psoriasis and understanding some of the triggers linked to causes of psoriasis can help you manage your condition. Know, too, that there’s hope for better management strategies and treatments. As the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reports, since discovering that inflammation in psoriasis is triggered by T cells, researchers have been studying new treatments that quiet immune system reactions in the skin.
If they find a way to target only the disease-causing immune reactions while leaving the rest of the immune system alone, resulting treatments could have a huge benefit for people with psoriasis.
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