Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, which is not contagious. It is genetic and outbreaks usually depend on environmental factors, which cause inflammation in the top layers of the skin. This results in red or silver patches on the skin and flakes similar to dandruff. The most commonly affected areas are the scalp, knees, elbows, and shins. The patches are sometimes itchy or painful and vary in colour, size, quantity and affected area from person to person. Psoriasis often comes and goes in phases, and usually affects the same place. Apart from the discomfort, psoriasis can also be upsetting for the sufferer, and may lead to social difficulties. Although no known cure is available, there are many methods that can help sufferers of this condition by reducing the resulting problems and frequency of outbreaks.
A person is more likely to get the disease if someone in their family has it, and it can skip generations. Something usually triggers the condition to appear, and common triggers include:
- psychological stress (often after a traumatic event);
- an infection (e.g. tonsillitis);
- certain medicines (such as for blood pressure or lithium);
- alcohol; and
Due to inflammation, the skin cells in the top skin layer generate more rapidly than usual. As a result, flakes of old skin appear and the inflammation causes redness in the underlying skin.
There are five different types of psoriasis: plaque, guttate, inverse, erythrodermic, and pustular. Commonly one or more of the following symptoms occur to the sufferer during an outbreak:
- red, peeling patches in various areas on the body;
- redness in skin folds (e.g. the groin or armpit); and
- small dents in the nails.
Psoriasis can lead to joint problems for about 20% of sufferers. Psoriatic arthritis is often asymmetrical (unlike rheumatoid arthritis) and mostly comes with mild problems, such as redness. Only in rare cases when more joints are affected can psoriatic arthritis lead to disability.
There are various ways of treating psoriasis. Since the condition varies in severity from person to person, so do the treatment methods. Some methods carry fewer risks for the skin and body than others. If you only have minor issues, a warm bath or skin lotion can help make the extra skin disappear and soothe the inflammation. Medical creams can help, but may harm the skin if used long-term. Medication is usually more efficient than creams, but often comes with problematic side effects, and is also not a long-term solution. Certain light treatments help often in combination with other topical treatments.
Bath and body lotion
For people with mild problems, a simple and easy way to ease your psoriasis is to regularly take a bath or sauna for at least 20 minutes. This helps the excess skin to disappear. Using a body lotion, a fat cream or an ointment with salicylic acid also helps clear away flaking skin. The combination of the two treatments on a regular basis may help sufferers with mild problems. It is also recommended to do this before any light-based treatment.
If the psoriasis is more severe, cortisone creams or vitamin D creams may come in handy. Stronger prescription creams are often the only effective thing in this case. Although the creams help for a short time, the skin patches will usually reappear after a time. If this approach is carried out for a long period, it often results in thinning of the skin and may have other side effects.
If creams do not work, prescribed medicines in pill form may be considered. Methotrexate, acitretin and ciclosporin are such examples. They are more effective than creams, yet the risk for side effects increase significantly. Such side effects could be issues with the liver or kidney, deformation of the foetus (during pregnancy), and increased cholesterol or blood pressure.
A light-based treatment with UVB rays can help the condition, but increases the risk of skin cancer long-term. This treatment should only be used in severe cases and not more than twice a year.
Low-intensity laser therapy yields very good results for sufferers of psoriasis. This is a “cold” laser therapy that clears away skin flakes, regenerates damaged tissue, and stabilises and normalises skin function.
Both light treatments are often more efficient in combination with other treatments, such as during usage of certain topical creams, and after taking a bath and conditioning the affected area.
What can you do?
There is no cure for psoriasis, but certain things may lead to fewer or no outbreaks.
Sleep and reduce stress
Stress and lack of sleep is a common factor for the outbreak of psoriasis. Try to relax and get as much sleep as possible. Organise your life in such a way as to minimise stress. The psoriasis itself may trigger stress within you feeding a vicious cycle – perform regular exercise and think about exploring meditation to embrace a calmer outlook.
Take a bath
Take a warm bath once per week. Remove the flaky skin on your body and moisturise afterwards.
Use fat creams
Use a fat cream or an ointment with salicylic acid on the affected areas every second day. This will help the skin to recover and remove the flaky skin.
Don’t overdo it, as this is also harmful for your skin in excess, but the sun has a healing power when it comes to psoriasis. In the winter, undergo a light-based treatment or even take a vacation in a sunnier place for a few days. If you are using a topical cream, make sure it is okay to use this in the sun.
Avoid certain foods
Even though it is not proven that food has a direct link to psoriasis. Reducing sugar and other carbohydrates can reduce inflammation within the body. Since psoriasis is linked to skin inflammation, it might be useful to try reducing your carbohydrate intake to see if this helps.
How Can We Help You?
Low-intensity laser therapy has been shown to reduce inflammation and boost immune response. If you are still suffering from psoriasis after trying these recommendations or you want a quicker and more effective solution, get in touch and see how we can treat your psoriasis with low-intensity laser therapy. Or read our more detailed page about low-intensity laser therapy for psoriasis.