What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a non-contagious chronic skin
condition that is estimated to affect 80 to 120 million people.
characterized by patches of thick, red, inflamed skin and dry, silvery flakes of
skin known as
scales. Symptoms of psoriasis range in severity from barely
noticeable to outbreaks of lesions that cover
most of the body. Psoriasis is
also known to cause a form of arthritis, known as psoriatic arthritis. The
condition is not contagious, so it cannot spread from person to person. By
knowing the causes, symptoms and
treatments of psoriasis people can cope with
the physical and emotional challenges of living with the
Causes of Psoriasis
While the actual cause of psoriasis is unknown, it
is believed to result from genes that influence the immune
response in the skin,
possibly causing areas in which the immune system is inadvertently directed
body’s own cells. Some people have a genetic makeup that makes it
more likely to develop psoriasis than others,
and about one third of the people
with psoriasis also have a family member with the condition. Psoriasis
up at any time without any apparent cause, but it is often initiated or
aggravated by specific
triggers. Some examples of triggers that may aggravate
psoriasis symptoms include:
- Environmental factors such as stress, sunburn and weather conditions
- Medications such as lithium and beta-blockers
- Illness or skin injury such as strep infections, cuts, burns and scratching
Who Gets Psoriasis?
Psoriasis can affect all age groups, but it
primarily affects adults. About three-quarters of people with the condition
develop it before the age of 40, and only about one in ten develop it in their
childhood years. Males and females are affected about equally. Psoriasis is most
common in people of northern European descent, varies among other ethnicities,
and is rare in Native Americans. More than half of the psoriasis cases are mild,
covering less than 3 percent of the body, with fewer moderate cases. Severe
cases that cover more than 10 percent of the body are the least common. Although
people may inherit the genes that make them more likely to develop the disease,
they may or may not develop psoriasis due to a wide variability in triggers,
environment, and personal health factors.
Psoriasis Treatment Options (not limited to): +Topical Steroids
Corticosteroids are the most frequently used treatment for psoriasis. They are referred to as anti-inflammatory agents, because they reduce the swelling and redness of lesions. Anthralin, synthetic Vitamin D3, and Vitamin A are also used in prescription topical treatments to control psoriasis lesions. These topicals slow down excessive cell reproduction and reduce the inflammation associated with psoriasis.
+Photo Therapy (Light Therapy)
Ultraviolet (UV) light, which is found in sunlight, slows the rapid growth of skin cells. Under a dermatologist's care, light therapy offers patients a safe and effective treatment option.
Ultraviolet B (UVB) light therapy is an effective treatment for psoriasis. UVB penetrates the skin and slows the growth of affected skin cells. Treatment involves exposing the skin to an artificial UVB light source for a set length of time on a regular schedule.
Psoralen + Ulatraviolet A (PUVA) light therapy is like UVB, in which ultraviolet light A (UVA) is present in sunlight. However, unlike UVB, UVA is relatively ineffective unless used with a light-sensitizing medication psoralen, which is administered topically or orally. This treatment, called PUVA, slows down excessive skin cell growth and can clear psoriasis symptoms for varying periods of time.
Biologics are a relatively new class of treatment for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis treatments. They are given by injection or intravenous (IV) infusion.
Enbrel is used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in adults and children. The medicine is also used to treat psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and psoriasis. The medicine is given by injection under the skin. Your dermatologist will instruct you on how to prepare and properly give this medicine.
Stelara is a prescription medicine that is approved to treat adults 18 years and older with moderate or severe plaque psoriasis that involves large areas or many areas of their body, who may benefit from taking injections or pills (systemic therapy) or phototherapy (treatment using ultraviolet light alone or with pills).
Humira has been proven effective in fighting the symptoms of moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis. For many people with moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis, clearer skin is possible with humira. In fact, in clinical trials, most adults saw 75% skin clearance, and the majority of people were clear or almost clear in just 4 months. Individual results may vary.
Remicade is given through IV infusion in our dermatologist's office. Remicade is prescribed for individuals with moderate to severe cases of plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. This is a viable option for those who have not responded to or have experienced harmful side effects from other treatment options.
Methotrexate is an immunosuppressive drug that binds to and inhibits an enzyme involved in the rapid growth of skin cells and slows down the cells growth rate. Methotrexate is highly effective in reducing the painful symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. Patients taking methotrexate must have regular blood tests to make sure that the drug is safely processed by the body including the liver, white blood cells and bone marrow.
Cyclosporine is an immunosuppressive drug approved by the FDA for adults with severe psoriasis. Cyclosporine suppresses the immune system and slows down the growth of certain immune cells. Cyclosporine taken on a consistent schedule can provide fast relief from symptoms of psoriasis. Guidelines of treatment should be monitored by a dermatologist or physician.
An oral retinoid may be prescribed for severe cases of psoriasis. There are several side effects of oral retinoids, such as dryness of the skin, and elevations in cholesterol and triglycerides. Oral retinoids can also cause birth defects and should not be used by pregnant women, or women who intend to become pregnant. Patients taking oral retinoids must be closely monitored by a dermatologist and require regular blood tests.
Soriatane is an oral retinoid, which is a synthetic form of vitamin A. Acitretin is the only oral retinoid approved by the FDA specifically for treating psoriasis. Soriatane tends to work slowly for plaque psoriasis and takes months before seeing results. Psoriasis may also worsen before individuals start to see clearing. Patients must follow treatment guidelines to avoid possible health risks and for optimal results.
Moisturizers should be used liberally and frequently to the entire body (2 to 3 times per day). They should be applied immediately after bathing or showering to "seal in" the water (within 2 to 3 minutes). Keeping the skin moist helps to prevent the dryness and prevent flares of psoriasis. As a general rule, the greasier they are, the better they work. Examples of good moisturizers are Cetaphil Restoraderm lotion, Cerave cream, Vanicream and plain Vaseline petroleum jelly.