Don’t let the name scare you. Psoriasis is a somewhat common skin disease which causes the patient’s skin to age early. What actually happens is that the life cycle of skin cells is speeded up and cells are built up more quickly on the surface. As a result, extra scales and sort of red patches are formed on the skin, causing severe itching and irritation.
The plain fact is that there is no actual cause of Psoriasis. However, doctors have been successful in finding that it is caused by a malfunction in neutrophils. In other words, psoriasis is caused as a result of immune system problem with T cells. The basic function of T cells is to travel all around the body, in order to save it from bacteria and viruses. What happens in psoriasis is that T cells confuse normal body cells with infected ones and attack them.
There is a small proportion of hyperactive T cells that boost the production of healthy skin cells, more T cells and neutrophils. As an outcome, these travel into the skin and we see redness and sometimes even pus in some areas. The dangerous thing is that this process becomes a cyclic reaction as the newly formed skin cells are brought to upper layer rapidly. [i]The process usually happens over weeks but in psoriasis, it takes only days. Ultimately what happens is that scaly patches are formed on the skin. The patches cause severe irritation and stay there until they are treated.
There is a huge variation among the symptoms that are seen in patients. It depends on the severity of psoriasis and also on the type of the psoriasis that one has. However, the most common psoriasis symptoms include:
- Reddish patches or inflamed skin. In extreme cases of psoriasis, the plaques grow and combine with each other.
- Painful and itchy skin causing severe irritation. Rubbing or touching the skin too often would easily make it bleed.
- Discoloration and pitting of fingernails and toe nails. If the condition of the victim is severe, the nails can also crumble or separate from the nailbed completely.
- Psoriatic arthritis is associated with Psoriasis that results in painful swollen joints and itchy skin. Almost 20 to 20% people who have psoriasis are often found to have psoriatic arthritis. [ii]
Depending on the severity of the case, psoriasis may range from just a few spots to eruptions expanding to large areas. Also, there are cycles of psoriasis. It may end in a few weeks but may even last for months if not taken care of in time. Besides major symptoms of psoriasis, there are those symptoms that vary from type to type:
Plaque psoriasis: The most prevailing form of psoriasis, it causes dryness in skin and forms red lesions on the body. These lesions are also known as plaques – hence the name of this psoriasis type. The dangerous thing about this type of psoriasis is that it could spread to anywhere in your body, even the genitals and soft tissues inside the mouth.
Guttate psoriasis: It is most common in children and teenagers. Strep throat is known to be a trigger for this sort of psoriasis. Guttate psoriasis is diagnosed by little, water-drop shaped scaling lesions on your trunk, legs and forearms etc. Another difference between guttate and plaque psoriasis is that it is not as thick as the plaque one. If you are lucky, it would go away after a single outbreak but it may come back for a repeated episode.
Pustular psoriasis: This is a rather uncommon form of psoriasis and usually occurs in widespread patches. Also, it can spread in places like fingertips and other smaller areas. The concerning thing about this type of psoriasis is that it spreads so quickly that blisters may start appearing just after hours of its occurrence. [iii]Though the blisters may appear and disappear on their own, it can cause you fever, chills and severe itching.
There are several types of psoriasis treatments available at present. They are mainly categorized into two different categories:
These type of treatments usually include rubbing an ointment of some sort directly on to the affected skin. These are considered to have an upside that there are no side effects of medicines involved in them. These include
Salicylic Acid: Salicylic acid is something that is hugely effective in the treatment of psoriasis. It provides relief to the victim and smoothens the skin. However, if the body is allowed to absorb too much of it, the side effects may include hair loss etc. [iv]
Steroid-based creams: As the name suggests, use of steroid-based creams is effective as they cause a decrease in the inflammation. It is widely used treatment for psoriasis because these creams stop the production of cells that are being overproduced. Doctor’s instructions should be followed carefully, in order to resist side effects such as irritation, dryness and skin thinning etc.
Oral or injected medicines
The doctors may prescribe oral or injected treatments if the other remedies do not work. These include:
Retinoids: This is a strong drug that may work if he other therapies are rendered useless. Strong care must be taken with this technique because lip inflammation and hair loss may be experienced as a side effect. Also, doctors avoid giving this treatment to women as they have to avoid pregnancy for at least two to three years after undergoing this.
Drugs altering the immune system: There are a lot of drugs such as remicade, ixekizumab and etanercept that the doctors give to the patients in the form of injections. These kinds of drugs are more effective for those who have not shown improvement against other therapies and also for psoriatic arthritis patients. [v]Doctors take great care while giving these treatments as they may damage the immune system further, if not given properly.