Psoriasis is a common skin disease caused by an autoimmune disorder. It speeds the production of skin cells causing red, itchy, scaly patches to form on the surface of the skin. These patches are commonly referred to as “plaques.”
Psoriasis plaques are small, covering tiny spots on the body, or large, dandruff-like patches covering entire sections. It is most common on the elbows, knees, hands, feet and scalp.
Even though psoriasis symptoms occur on the surface of the skin, that’s not the whole story. Skin cells on an average person take between 28 and 30 days to produce new cells. On a person with psoriasis, the new skin cells are produced and pushed to the surface in 3 to 4 days.
At this rate, your body doesn’t have time to shed old cells and produce new ones. Your skin begins piling up both old and new cells on top of one another. This pile of skin cells is what causes the formation of red, itchy patches on the skin’s surface.
How To Treat Psoriasis
While living with psoriasis on a daily basis can be irritating, the good news is that it’s treatable. The primary goal of psoriasis remedies is to prevent skin cells from growing too quickly, reducing the plaques that form on your skin.
A variety of treatments exist to combat psoriasis including topicals, biological drugs and light therapy.
Types of Topicals
The first line of defense in mild cases of psoriasis are topical over-the-counter treatments. Two of the most popular include salicylic acid and coal tar.
Salicylic acid works like a peeling agent and stimulates shedding of the outer skin layer. Coal tar contains real tar from coal and works in a similar fashion. There are many types of topicals available on the market from shampoos to creams.
Nonsteroidal topical medicines can be used as a stronger form of treatment and need a prescription. These work by slowing skin cell production. The use of synthetic vitamin D3 and synthetic vitamin A are the effective elements found in these medications.
Corticosteroid anti-inflammatory medications (steroids) are the most common kind and used regularly. They also require a prescription and come in a variety of strengths.
Biologic medications are protein-based and are created from living cells. Patients typically receive an IV or injection targeting specific parts of the immune system. The biologics act as “blockers” that prevent certain types of immune cell and protein production.
An alternative to topicals is light therapy (phototherapy). Light therapy aims specific kinds of light onto the skin.
The most common kinds of light treatment are Ultraviolet B (UVB) and PUVA (Psoralen and Ultraviolet A). If you’re receptive to natural sunlight, this treatment can be very effective.
In most cases, psoriasis does not go away. Because its causes are still unclear makes it difficult to prevent. However, numerous psoriasis therapies now exist to treat its symptoms effectively. People who struggle with psoriasis are now able to live more comfortable, pain-free lives.