Psoriasis is a recurring autoimmune disorder that causes red, itchy scaly patches, most commonly on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp. An autoimmune disorder is one where your immune system mistakes your own body’s cells as foreign and attacks them. The immune releases antibodies and attacks healthy cells. Psoriasis is among the most common autoimmune disorders in India and around the globe. You see, in psoriasis, your immune system malfunctions and causes the skin to regenerate at a higher than normal rate. This rapid regeneration usually results in scales and red patches. Notice we didn’t say ‘cure’ or ‘treat’ in the title because psoriasis is a chronic condition with no cure. You can only treat the symptom, not the disease itself. Psoriasis goes through cycles, with weeks-to-month long flares followed by subsidence, sometimes it even goes into remission. But it almost always comes back, so here are Ways to Cope with Psoriasis.
If you are familiar with this site, you know that generally, we try and provide you with an abundance of information on any subject we deliberate. But that’s not the case here, mainly because the scientific community itself has not much information. Mentioned before, the symptoms of psoriasis occur when your immune system malfunctions. What exactly causes this error is unknown but it is believed there are genetic and environmental factors involved. And although the condition sometimes visually resembles a fungal infection, it is not contagious.
Symptoms of Psoriasis
Often varying from person to person, the symptoms of this condition are inconsistent. But there are a few symptoms that recur among the majority of people that suffer from this condition. These are:
- Red patches of skin covered with thick, gray scales
- Small scaling spots (generally seen in children)
- Dry, cracked skin that may bleed and itch
- Itching, burning or soreness
- Thickened, rough or ridged nails
- Swollen and stiff joints
Areas of the body affected by psoriasis also vary. Some people have a few spots of dandruff like scaling while others have huge eruptions that cover large areas.
Types of Psoriasis
The reason behind such varied symptoms is there are several kinds of psoriasis. Including:
- Plaque psoriasis – This is the most common form of psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis causes dry, raised, red skin patches (lesions) covered with ashy scales. They can be itchy or tender, and there may be few or many. They usually appear on elbows, knees, lower back and scalp.
- Nail psoriasis – Psoriasis can affect fingernails and toenails, causing dents and holes in the nail, abnormal nail growth and discolouration. Affected nails might loosen and separate from the nail bed. Severe cases might result in the affected nail crumbling.
- Guttate psoriasis – This type is uncommon and occurs in children and young adults. Usually triggered by a bacterial infection such as strep throat, the symptoms of guttate psoriasis are red small, teardrop-shaped, scaly spots on the trunk, arms or legs.
- Inverse psoriasis – Oftentimes referred to as hidden psoriasis or intertriginous psoriasis. Inverse psoriasis affects the areas in your body where skin rubs against skin. The skin folds of the groin, breasts and buttocks are the usual affected areas. The symptoms are smooth patches of itchy red skin which worsen from sweating or friction. This psoriasis can be triggered by fungal infections.
- Psoriatic arthritis – If you know what arthritis is, the name “psoriatic arthritis” should give you an inkling about what it is capable of. This type of psoriasis causes swelling and pain in the joints. Sometimes the only symptoms of psoriasis are these joint symptoms. At other times, only nail changes are seen. This psoriasis can be mild or severe and can affect any joint. In the most severe cases, permanent joint damage is a concern.
- Pustular psoriasis – This rare and severe form of psoriasis causes yellow pus-filled blisters that occur in widespread patches or in smaller areas on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet.
- Erythrodermic psoriasis – The rarest and deadliest type of psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis can cover your entire body in a red, peeling rash. This rash can burn and/or itch intensely. When we said ‘deadliest type of psoriasis’, it wasn’t hyperbole; Erythrodermic psoriasis is aggressive, spreads incredibly fast and if complications develop, can be fatal.
Ways to Cope With the Symptoms
So far, you have learned that by all accounts, psoriasis at it worst can be an unbearable condition. Extreme levels of discomfort are to be expected if it flares up. So is it possible to prevent flare-ups? Yes, or else we wouldn’t have written this article.
This cannot be stressed enough – lack of moisture can make a bad situation worse. Lesions caused by psoriasis are dry and scaly, any flare-up becomes worse if your skin lacks the moisture. Aside from sensitive skin moisturizers, humidifiers that keep the air in your home moist are recommended.
Stay away from fragrances
Most soap and perfumes have chemicals in them that can irritate psoriasis affected skin. You might smell great because of it but is it worth the psoriasis flare-up? If you have to, use products with ‘sensitive skin’ labels.
Watch your diet
You might think that psoriasis is an external condition and requires just external treatments. You couldn’t be further from the truth as the symptoms on your skin occur a long time after psoriasis begins deep inside your immune system. Therefore, diet plays a factor in alleviating psoriasis symptoms. Avoid red meat, saturated fats, refined sugar and, carbohydrates as they can trigger a fare up. Consumption of cold-water fish, seeds, nuts, omega-3 fatty acids, olive oil and other inflammation-reducing foods is recommended.
Aside from consumption, application of olive oil on the affected area can soothe any flare ups.
A go-to Indian remedy for many a diseases, turmeric is effective in minimizing psoriasis flare ups as well.
Avoid the common vices
Yet another reason to not drink and smoke. Alcohol is a common trigger for a psoriasis flare up. Smoking increases your risk of psoriasis and increase the severity of your condition if you already suffer from it.
Like almost any disease known to mankind, stress can adversely affect psoriasis. So take time out of your day for self-care and reduce the chances of a flare up.