Often confused with eczema, psoriasis is a skin condition which causes the skin to develop red, flaky or crusty dry patches which are often covered with silvery scales. Affecting around 3% of the UK population, it is a condition which is often shrouded in embarrassment. But with celebrity sufferers like Kim Kardashian coming forward and sharing their experiences, sufferers feel more confident to talk about it.
So if you are unsure what psoriasis is and want to find out more on this condition and how to treat it, keep reading this article.
Let’s get technical for a moment to really understand what psoriasis is. Your skin produces cells, during a natural cycle that causes old ones to die and new ones to form. As new cells develop in the deepest layers of the skin, they begin to move up towards the outer layers to replace old cells that have become dry and flaky. This whole process usually takes around 20-28 days to complete. When psoriasis occurs, this process is sped up to a rapid six days turnover.
This is caused by a change in the immune system regarding certain immune cells. Psoriasis is the condition used to describe when these cells (known as T cells) become overactive and start to act as if they are fighting an infection or healing a wound. This causes them to produce inflammatory chemicals which contribute to the rapid growth of new skin cells, which is why psoriasis is often described as an auto-immune disease.
As a result, cells that are not fully mature build up quickly on the surface of the skin, causing red, flaky and crusty patches. There is no known cause for psoriasis but stress, anxiety, smoking, trauma and genetics, have all been identified as triggers.
Unlike eczema, which is most common in children, psoriasis is only found in adults. The severity and size of the affected area can vary, but it is said to affect two groups of people more than others. People in their late teens to early thirties, and between the ages of 50 and 60 are said to be the two ‘peaks’ of psoriasis susceptibility.
It can develop on the hands, feet, scalp and body, and can range from very small patches to larger areas that can make daily life quite unbearable. It is important that you assess both the physical and psychological aspects, as this is the best way to find the appropriate treatment for you.
Though there is no known cure for psoriasis, this isn’t a reason to despair. There are lots of treatments that can successfully manage and reduce the symptoms. Your treatment will be determined by the size, severity and type of psoriasis you are suffering from, but there are three key types of treatment that may be prescribed by your GP.
- Topical products (creams or lotions that are applied to the skin)
- Phototherapy (when the skin is exposed to certain types of UV light)
- Oral or injected treatments (where medicine is used to combat the over-production of skin cells)
In some people psoriasis naturally goes away over time, while others suffer with constant outbreaks throughout their life. Creams may be the best way to calm and soothe the initial skin irritation, but those with very severe psoriasis may require a combination of treatments to successfully manage their condition.
For more information and advice, speak to your GP.
Original and Modified image of skin layer from freedigitalphotos.net | By scottchan