Anyone who has ever had psoriasis knows that it is a skin condition much more serious than just a few white flakes fluttering to the ground. Nor is it something that can be easily cured with just a couple visits to the dermatologist and stocking the shower with a new brand of soap and shampoo more skin-friendly.
What Causes Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is in fact a chronic autoimmune skin disorder that involves your immune system triggering an overproduction of skin cells. While health experts aren’t 100 percent certain what causes psoriasis, it is believed to be associated with a problem with your T cells and other white blood cells (called ‘neutrophils’) that attack healthy skin cells in error -- as if they are trying to heal a wound or fight an infection, per mayoclinic.org.
There is no known cure for psoriasis, with the primary goal in treatment being to manage the symptoms while preventing the skin cells from growing too quickly. Many treatments are centered on reducing inflammation and clearing the skin. Risk factors include family history, viral and bacterial infections, stress, obesity, and smoking, per Mayo Clinic.
There are home remedies that can help bring temporary relief to skin that is covered with red-scaly patches of skin known as ‘plaques.’ Per medicalnewstoday.com, those plaques typically appear on the elbows, knees, and scalp, although they can also show up elsewhere on the body. At times they might even cover much of the body, producing a conspicuously unsightly condition noticeable by others in, say, a locker room setting.
Different Types of Psoriasis
There are a number of different types of psoriasis that health experts have identified, with the previously-described plaque psoriasis being the most common. Some of the other types, per mayoclinic.org, include:
- Guttate psoriasis. More commonly found in children and adults under the age of 30, this type of psoriasis shows up as water-drop-shaped sores found on the trunk, arms, legs, and scalp.
- Scalp psoriasis. Not to be confused with dandruff. This type of psoriasis is characterized by red skin patches with silvery scales and a thick crust on the scalp extending slightly past the hairline and which can start bleeding when removed.
- Inverse psoriasis. Appears as red, inflamed skin most often found on overweight people, and which is worsened by friction and sweating.
- Other types include nail psoriasis (involving pitting and unusual nail growth and discoloration) that affect both toenails and fingernails; pustular psoriasis (occurs in widespread patches or in smaller areas on the hands, feet, or fingertips); and, worst of all, erythrodermic psoriasis (the least common type, it can cover your whole body with a red rash that peels and is accompanied by an intense burning sensation or itch).
Another related condition is what’s known as ‘psoriatic arthritis,’ which not only can affect the skin exterior with inflammation and scaly skin but can also produce swollen, painful joints beneath the skin. Psoriatic arthritis can even lead to joint damage as well as the loss of function in some joints.
Being diligent about treating psoriasis – with a physicians’ oversight and care being your first priority – is important because having psoriasis can put you at greater risk for developing diseases such as eye conditions, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and Parkinson’s disease. Here are some treatments and medications that can help you deal with whatever form of psoriasis from which you might be suffering:
- Fish oil. Such omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and help alleviate autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, per medicalnewstoday.com.
- Capsaicin. Found in red peppers, capsaicin can fight inflammation such as that found on the skin. It also has a component known as substance P that targets pruritic psoriasis.
- Probiotics. These are comprised of healthy bacteria that can help balance good bacteria against bad bacteria, which assists your immune system. That makes probiotics suitable for helping to manage the symptoms of psoriasis.
- Moisturizers. Keeping the skin moisturized can help alleviate itching and flaking.
- Aloe vera. Some research has shown aloe vera capable of reducing the redness and scaling linked to psoriasis, per psoriasis.org.
- Turmeric. Its main active ingredient is curcumin, which research has shown able to alter TNF cytokine expression in your body. That in turn might help to minimize psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis in some patients.
- Oregon grape. Its technical name is mahonia aquifolium. This is a potent herb that has a part in immune response. When topically applied to the skin in cream form, it has been shown effective in treating mile to moderate psoriasis, per psoriasis.org.
- Apple cider vinegar. It helps by diminishing scalp itch.
- Biologics. These are newer types of prescription drugs such as Adalimumab (Humira) and Etanercept (Enbrel), designed to target the body’s immune system, per livescience.com.
- Sunlight exposure. But keep it short each time to avoid sunburn. Exposure to ultraviolet rays via sunshine or even artificial light can thwart skin cell turnover and reduce scaling and inflammation, per mayoclinic.org.
- Topical corticosteroids. These are medications typically manufactured as ointments to applied topically to reduce the inflammation and itching of mild to moderate psoriasis, per mayoclinic.org.
- Anthralin. A medication that helps slow skin cell growth, which is the hallmark of psoriasis.
- Salicylic acid. Available both over the counter and via prescription, salicylic acid promotes sloughing of dead skin cells and reduces scaling, per mayoclinic.org.
- Coal tar. It can reduce scaling, itching, and inflammation. The bad news: it’s messy, stains clothing and bedding, and has a noticeable odor, per mayoclinic.org.