August is Psoriasis Awareness Month so I wanted to use this post to highlight some resources for those suffering from this skin disease.
What Is Psoriasis?
According to Dr. Ellen Marmur in her book Simple Skin Beauty (pages 230-231) psoriasis is a condition that is:
… characterized by thick, red plaque with a white, silvery (micaceous) scale on top. It’s itchy and painful and can create big fissures on the skin. It tends to be on extensor surfaces, such as the elbows, knees, and scalp. There are several types of psoriasis, and some can be quite severe, affecting the joints and causing something called “psoriatic arthritis”. It can also be mild, manifesting itself as one patch of plaque on the body, such as dry, cracked elbows that don’t soften no matter how much moisturizer you put on.
Psoriasis is a genetic, chronic inflammatory disease where for some reason lymphocytes (immune cells) are attaching the skin, causing cell turnover to accelerate. Therefore, the dead skin cells aren’t shedding as fast as the maturing cells are rising to the surface. This pile-up creates a silvery scale on the surface.
If you do suffer from psoriasis there are some things you can do at home to help prevent your condition from getting worse. Once again, according to Dr. Marmur:
Don’t scratch or try to scrub off the scaly skin. Instead, moisturize with a thick, occlusive cream or ointment twice a day. Sweat will irritate the skin, as will fragranced products or perfume. Psoriasis sufferers have to be careful about everything they put on their skin – even sunscreen can sting. Even one patch of plaque should lead you to see a dermatologist, especially since it’s likely that you will develop others in the future. It’s important to get a good treatment program to prevent a more extensive outbreak.
So what other treatment options are out? According to Dr. Amy Taub, as quoted in the article August is Psoriasis Awareness Month; Is Your Spa Ready? online at Skin Inc. :
- Laser. A 308nm laser provides targeted phototherapy treatment for psoriasis offering safe, effective and lasting results. This laser uses a focused beam of ultraviolet light on the affected skin area avoiding exposure to healthy skin.
- Topical agents. In mild psoriasis, where less than 10% of the body surface is affected, topical creams, ointments, gels and lotions are often applied first. These usually consist of steroids, vitamin D derivatives, retinoids (vitamin A derivatives) and tar-based topical treatments. The most common is a steroid because of its anti-inflammatory properties and because it also decreases the redness and scaling relatively quickly.
- Oral or injectables. When psoriasis is more severe or light treatments or topicals have failed, oral or injectable solutions may be considered. They work by decreasing the metabolism in overactive cells thereby decreasing the rapidity with which psoriatic skin is made helping to normalize it. In addition, sufferers now have biologic medications available, also known as “designer” drugs, which attack specific molecular targets in the immune system.
Dr. Taub tells SkinInc.com exclusively about possible psoriasis treatments that are currently in the works.
Awaiting U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, new biologic agents are being investigated at a very rapid pace. New receptor molecules have been identified as targets (called IL-23 receptors) that may be even more specific than the agents that are known about today. The older biologics have undergone many years of study, and the dermatologic community is finally feeling more confident about the long-term safety of these agents as a result of this data. In fact, there may even be some negative consequences of not treating psoriasis. More data is pointing to the fact that having unchecked psoriasis could lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, leading many dermatologists to push more toward treatment as being more conservative.
If you think that you may have psoriasis see a dermatologist immediately in order to start a treatment plan before your condition worsens. Please see below for lots of online resources for even more information about psoriasis.
Other online resources for information about psoriasis and treatment options:
- National Psoriasis Foundation
- Psoriasis – Paula Begoun
- Tim Gunn’s Fashion Therapy for Psoriasis – The New York Times
- Psoriasis Health Center – WebMD