Home   >   Articles   >   How to Cope with the Skin Condition Psoriasis

How to Cope with the Skin Condition Psoriasis

by Karen Rollins Jun 3, 2024

Share this
Close up view of woman scratching her neck.

Psoriasis is a chronic and common skin condition that speeds up the life cycle of skin cells and causes them to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin. These extra cells cause red, flaky and crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales. 

Skin cells are normally made and replaced every three to four weeks, but with people who suffer from psoriasis this process only lasts about three to seven days.

Psoriasis affects men and women equally and the severity of the condition varies significantly from person to person.

What causes psoriasis?

The exact cause of psoriasis isn’t fully understood, but doctors believe it is related to an immune system issue with the body’s T cells and other white blood cells, called neutrophils.

According to the Mayo Clinic: “T cells normally travel through the body to defend against foreign substances, such as viruses or bacteria. But if you have psoriasis, the T cells attack healthy skin cells by mistake, as if to heal a wound or to fight an infection.”

Anyone can develop psoriasis, but you are more at risk if you have a family history of the disease, suffer from high levels of stress, smoke or if you are obese. Most sufferers are under the age of 35.

Psoriasis isn’t contagious, so it can’t be spread from person to person.

What are the symptoms?

Patches of psoriasis range from a few spots of dandruff-like scaling to major eruptions that cover large areas of skin. Most patches occur on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back.

Psoriasis flare-ups can last for a few weeks or months before subsiding for a time or even disappearing completely.

Symptoms include:

– Red patches of skin covered with thick, silvery scales

– Dry, cracked skin that may bleed

– Itching, burning or soreness

– Thickened, pitted or ridged nails

– Swollen and stiff joints

What triggers a psoriasis attack?

People who suffer from psoriasis can usually identify a trigger which sets off the condition or makes it worse.

Some of the factors that may trigger psoriasis include:

– Stress

– Smoking

– Heavy alcohol consumption

– Vitamin D deficiency

– A skin or throat infection

– A cut or scrape, bug bite, or severe sunburn

– Certain medications such as lithium, beta blockers and antimalarial drugs

How is psoriasis treated?

Psoriasis treatments reduce redness and pain and help to keep the skin clear. Treaments can be divided into three main types: topical treatments, light therapy and systemic medications.

Topical treatments include creams and ointments that are applied directly to the skin to treat mild to moderate psoriasis.

Light therapy or phototherapy involves exposing the skin to controlled amounts of natural sunlight or artificial ultraviolet light.

Oral or injected drugs, known as systemic medications, are used for severe psoriasis but because of adverse side effects some of these medications are can only be taken for short periods of time.

Alternative treatments

Various natural remedies such as restrictive diets, creams, dietary supplements and herbs have been used to help relieve psoriasis although none have definitively been proved effective.

Alternative treatments include Aloe Vera cream which can be applied to affected parts of the skin and fish oil supplements.

If you’re suffering from psoriasis you should consult your doctor to develop a treatment plan that is right for you. Search the Guernsey Directory to find a GP.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, WebMD and NHS UK.