August is known as Psoriasis Awareness Month, which makes this an excellent opportunity to understand psoriasis and what it does. A little information goes a long way toward treating the condition and getting the help and support you need. To start, what is psoriasis?
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes skin cells to multiply several times faster than usual. This causes the skin to break out into bumpy red patches that may crack and bleed. Typically, skin cells grow deep under the skin and slowly rise to the surface and replace older skin cells as they fall off. This process usually takes a long time (the average lifespan of skin cells is one month).
In people with psoriasis, this process instead takes place over several days. The old skin cells don’t have enough time to fall off, causing a buildup of skin cells and the distinctive red patches. Typically, the patches grow on joints like elbows and knees. Other common areas that break out include the face, hands, neck, and scalp.
Is It Contagious?
No. Psoriasis isn’t contagious; you can’t “catch” it from other people. There’s no problem touching anyone if you have it, so set your mind at ease. Psoriasis isn’t something you can spread to other people.
- Psoriasis triggers – Psoriasis sometimes runs in families, so there is likely a genetic component to the disease. However, external triggers also contribute to developing symptoms. Some things to watch for include:
- Viral and bacterial infections
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Injuries to the skin
- Certain medications, like lithium and some blood pressure medications
- Common symptoms – The most noticeable indication of psoriasis is the red, inflamed patches on the skin. However, the exact symptoms can differ from person to person. The more common ones include:
- Red patches on the skin
- Silvery scales on the patches
- Soreness around the patches
- Dry skin
- Itching and burning sensations
- Thick and pitted nails
- Painful, swollen joints
- There are different types of psoriasis – Psoriasis comes in different varieties: plaque, guttate, pustular, inverse, and erythrodermic. Plaque psoriasis is the most common and is characterized by distinctive red patches. Knowing what specific kind of psoriasis you have can help you get the most effective treatment.
What Can You Do?
As an autoimmune disease, there’s no simple cure for psoriasis. However, there are treatment options you can consider that can help alleviate the worst of the condition. For example, try topical creams and ointments to reduce some of the symptoms. In more severe cases, you can take medication to rebalance the body. Like other medical conditions, there are some activities you can try to alleviate psoriasis and help manage it. Try some of these methods to help keep it under control and avoid some of the triggers.
- Live a healthy lifestyle – Psoriasis has been linked to other medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Engage in regular physical activity to stay healthy and reduce the severity of your symptoms. Make exercise part of your daily routine and try to lose some weight. Improving your health can also strengthen the immune system and aid your body in fighting off infections that could trigger your symptoms. Certain foods can also trigger the onset of symptoms. Cut down on foods like red meat, refined sugar, and dairy products to improve symptoms in the future.
- Avoid sunbathing – Excessive sunbathing is generally bad for the skin, what with the exposure to too much UV radiation. Ultraviolet therapy (e.g. Omnilux Light Therapy) is one option for dealing with psoriasis, but it is under controlled conditions. Refrain from exposing yourself to the sun in the hopes of getting more UV rays to fight off psoriasis. Too much sun can trigger your psoriasis and cause more damage to the skin. Leave the treatments to the professionals.
- Stay away from smoking – Smoking is a bad idea if you have a range of pre-existing medical problems, including psoriasis. Kick the habit if you still smoke, or better still, don’t start. Smoking generally makes most diseases worse. In the case of psoriasis, smoking contributes to systemic inflammation, which can make your symptoms worse. Smoking also weakens the immune system, increasing vulnerability to other infections.
- Find ways to de-stress – Stress is a common trigger for many autoimmune conditions, and that includes psoriasis. Find effective de-stressors to manage your stress that can fit into your lifestyle. For example, incorporate a few minutes of exercise each day, or create a bedtime ritual that helps ease you to sleep. Even something as simple as listening to some feel-good music can go a long way toward fighting that stress.
What Else Do I Need To Know?
There are a few more things to know about psoriasis that can help you. As a condition, psoriasis brings its share of problems with it. As the saying goes, “forewarned is forearmed.” Having a bit more knowledge can help you prepare for any difficulties and be ready for them.
- You may encounter discrimination – In addition to the physical challenges of psoriasis, there are mental and social impacts to the disease. Psoriasis is a very visible condition that is poorly understood by the average person. People may fear shaking hands with someone with psoriasis, or be passed over for jobs that require interacting with the public.
Harmful myths and stereotypes can directly impact your mood and quality of life. Talk with loved ones or find a support group to help you handle your feelings. For ideal results, consult a counsellor to help you learn how to approach life and conquer your anxieties.
- Psoriasis typically develops in adulthood – In most cases, psoriasis develops somewhere between the ages of 15 and 35. Only a small fraction of patients are diagnosed before ten, so younger children are less likely to be at risk for this condition.
- Most cases are mild – The severity of psoriasis can vary from person to person, but for the most part, the symptoms are mild. About 80% of patients demonstrate mild symptoms, leaving only 20% with moderate to severe psoriasis. Severe cases have the patches cover over 5% of the body’s surface area.
Symptoms usually get worse in winter – As a chronic disease, psoriasis has its good and bad days. Winter can be a troubling time when you have the condition. The cold weather can dry out the skin and trigger inflammation. Many people also elect to stay indoors to get away from the cold. A little sun can help ease flare-ups when they happen. Get a few minutes of sunlight (up to 10) to give your skin some UV to relieve the symptoms.
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in dealing with this condition. Many people deal with psoriasis, just like you. Find a support group to help deal with the problem; it’s a good way to express your feelings and frustrations and to get support from people who understand what you are going through.
Treatments like UV-laser therapy can help ease symptoms and reduce the pain associated with psoriasis. At Laser Essential & Skin Care, we offer state-of-the-art equipment and experienced staff to help enhance how your skin looks. We provide a wide range of services, including psoriasis treatment, scar removal, and spider vein elimination.
Call us at (416) 226-0744 to inquire about how we can help you with any skin concerns you may have. Our goal is to help make your skin as healthy and rejuvenated as possible.