Roughly two percent of the Australian population has a skin condition known as psoriasis. Psoriasis presents in a number of different ways. For most people, the condition is mild and a nuisance only, but for some it may be severe enough to require hospitalisation. Generally, it appears in the later teenage years and can persist throughout the life of an affected individual. A second peak in the incidence of psoriasis occurs in males in their 50’s.
Psoriasis usually appears as on the skin as salmon-coloured scaly plaques, often symmetrical in its presentation. It can appear almost anywhere, including the belly button, the backs of the elbows/knees, and even on the buttocks. Psoriasis may also be associated with nail changes and joint pains. Psoriatic arthritis is a serious joint disease related directly to psoriasis. Recently, it has been recognised that the condition is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Coeliac disease and obesity is also more common.
The most common types of psoriasis include:
- Acute Guttate Psoriasis- widespread and look like ‘tear drops’ on the skin surface
- Chronic Plaque Psoriasis – may appear especially on the elbows, knees and lower back as large flat patches covered by noticeable scales
- Erythrodermic Psoriasis – a severe condition that covers most of the skin surface
- Flexural Psoriasis – usually appears only in body folds
- Koebnerised Psoriasis – appears in healing wounds or scars
- Nail Psoriasis – causes yellowing and pitting of the nails
- Palmoplantar Psoriasis – appears on the palms of the hands and soles
- Pustular psoriasis
- Sebopsoriasis- here there is an overlap of features of psoriasis and seborrhoeic dermatitis
- Medication-induced psoriasis- NSAIDS (anti-inflammatories), alcohol, lithium and beta-blockers (anti-hypertensives) are recognised to worsen psoriasis
Causes of Psoriasis
Dermatologists and researchers suspect that the immune system may be a major culprit. By causing inflammation, it may allow the blood vessels in the skin to overgrow and increase the rate of skin cell production. This leads to the recognisable red discoloration and to the thickening and scaling of the skin.
Psoriasis may be an inherited condition. If close relatives have psoriasis, your risk of having the condition is increased significantly. In addition, emotional and/or physical stress is a recognised exacerbating factor for psoriasis.
The Treatment for Psoriasis
Although psoriasis manifests in many ways, there are a number of remedies available to help treat the condition. It is often recommended to:
- Bathe with special soap substitutes and tar solutions to lift or soften the scales
- Apply rich emollient creams to prevent cracking and to add a layer of moisture
Dermatologists can also help reduce the symptoms and signs of psoriasis by prescribing topical treatments, phototherapy and oral or injectable medications. The important first step towards treating the condition is to visit a dermatologist for a comprehensive review.
If you have any questions or concerns about psoriasis, contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see a dermatologist. Contact us today.