Generally, when we fall ill, we tend to try and ignore whatever symptoms we’re experiencing until it gradually goes away. However, when the signs or symptoms we’re experiencing affect our skin, it can be much more challenging to turn a blind eye to them. Skin issues can cause varying effects on our bodies, depending on the severity.
They can either be temporary or permanent, painful or painless, minor or severe and caused by environmental factors or genetics. Other times skin issues can have unclear causes or be triggered by being immune-mediated such as psoriasis. Being one of the most prevalent skin issues, psoriasis currently affects around 1.3% to 2.2% in the UK.
What is Psoriasis?
First, it’s essential to understand what psoriasis is before you can devise a treatment plan for it. Typically, psoriasis is commonly mistaken for eczema since both conditions are characterised by irritated, red, flaky skin. However, this is a common misconception, and eczema and psoriasis are two non-related skin issues with varying treatment plans.
One of the most characteristic symptoms of psoriasis is the appearance of red patches of skin (also referred to as plaques) anywhere on the body covered in scaly skin patches that are silver in colour. Those with psoriasis often report that the plaques or scales cause them discomforts, such as tenderness, itchiness, burning and stinging sensations.
However, the signs and symptoms of psoriasis vary depending on which type you suffer with. Five official types of psoriasis exist, which are as follows:
- Guttate – Far less common than plaque psoriasis, guttate psoriasis leaves red, scaly, teardrop-shaped spots all over your body that don’t typically scar.
- Plaque – The most common type of psoriasis, this type causes dry, red, scaly patches to appear all over an individual’s skin covered with silvery scales.
- Pustular – This type of psoriasis can be extremely severe, even life-threatening. If allowed to spread, pustular psoriasis causes red, scaly, pus-filled bumps on the skin, requiring immediate medical attention.
- Inverse – Also called hidden psoriasis, inverse psoriasis usually forms between the body’s skin folds, leaving bright red lesions that appear smooth and shiny.
- Erythrodermic – Another severe type of psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis, causes a peeling rash all over the body. It spreads rapidly and can itch, burn, or sting severely.
For a more detailed insight into the different types of psoriasis, look at internet-based leaflets, which will offer you much more information about each type, how to recognise them, and their extent. Ensure that you are speaking to a doctor or pharmacist if you suspect you have any symptoms, as they may be able to provide expert advice.
What Causes Psoriasis?
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, but it is known to be immune-mediated, which means that the skin-regeneration process is accelerated. Currently, it is unknown what causes the immune system to malfunction, but health professionals assume that genetics and environmental factors (or both) play a role.
Even individuals at risk of psoriasis might not experience any signs or symptoms until an environmental factor triggers them. Some of the most common things that trigger psoriasis are as follows:
- Having a heavy dependency on either alcohol or smoking.
- Specific mediations such as drugs are used to treat high blood pressure, antimalarial drugs, or lithium.
- Experiencing intense emotions such as stress.
- An injury to the skin such as a bug bite, scrape, or severe sunburn.
- Changes in the temperature, especially cold, dry conditions.
- Other types of skin infections, or infections in general, such as strep throat and many more.
How Big Does Psoriasis Get?
Since psoriasis can spread at an alarming rate across the entire surface of the body, how big it gets can significantly vary between individuals and the type of psoriasis they suffer with. When psoriasis first appears, you may notice a few red patches on your skin that might resemble dandruff-like flakes, but it can quickly cover large areas as it flares further.
Some of the most common bodily areas to experience a flare of psoriasis are behind the knees, elbows, palms, face, lower back, feet, palms, and the hairline. During the throes of a flare, these patches may increase in severity in terms of their thickness, amount, and the complications they cause. Generally, a patch of psoriasis can get as wide as four inches or more extensive, worsening the more you succumb to itching it.
It can be challenging to resist the temptation to itch psoriasis once it flares; however, it’s vital that you fight, as scratching the patches will only worsen the spread and increase the risk of infection. If you itch the plaques regularly, then the constant irritation of the skin can prolong the healing process and cause bleeding, soreness, or minor wounds.
To heal these minor wounds, your immune system will start to fight back by increasing inflammation levels, only worsening the itch. Although it may feel pleasurable at the time, irritating the skin is counterproductive and will only serve to make your discomfort worse.
Can You Get Rid Of Psoriasis?
There is no known cure for psoriasis; however, various remedies and treatments are available to help manage psoriasis and the signs or symptoms associated with it. Even if you have a more severe type of psoriasis, various GP-prescribed and private medical options are available to help you manage your flare-ups.
The type of treatment or remedy offered to you will depend on the severity of your psoriasis and the type you have. With continued treatment, you may even be able to alleviate your symptoms or signs completely. Different types of treatment for psoriasis are as follows:
- Topical Treatments – Generally, your GP will offer you topical treatments to first relieve your psoriasis signs/symptoms. These drugs often come in the form of creams, ointments or foam and are designed to be rubbed into the affected areas. Some common forms of topical treatments are steroid creams, salicylic acid, synthetic vitamin D (calcipotriol), cool tar ointment/shampoo, immunosuppressants and prescription retinoids. Depending on which topical treatment you are recommended, these are available both over the counter and in prescription options.
- Phototherapy – Light has been a natural way of treating skin issues for hundreds of years. Nowadays, advances in modern technology have enabled doctors to shine ultraviolet rays directly onto our skin, which can help slow down the rapidly growing skin cells that cause psoriasis flares. Common phototherapies include narrowband UVB therapy, broadband UVB therapy, excimer laser therapy (VTRAC), and PUVA. Typically, a dermatologist carries out this, but you can ask your GP about do-it-from-home kits.
- Systemic Treatments – If your signs or symptoms show no signs of improvement, then you might be given systemic treatments to slow down your immune system. Some common immunosuppressants used to treat psoriasis are enzyme inhibitors, methotrexate, cyclosporine, and oral retinoids.
- Systemic Biological Treatments – Unlike immunosuppressants, systemic biological treatments don’t affect your entire immune system but can be expensive. These will likely be administered via a shot or IV infusion and are best for treating more severe types of psoriasis.
Are Those Who Have Psoriasis At Risk Of Other Complications?
Unfortunately, those affected by psoriasis have a heightened risk of developing other complications, especially if the individual is taking systemic treatments. Not everyone with psoriasis will be liable for other complications, and if you follow your GP’s advice, you should lower your risk of contracting them anyway.
Those affected by psoriasis are more susceptible to the following conditions:
- Psoriatic Arthritis
- Eye Problems
- Mental Health Problems
- Heart Disease
- Hair or Nail Loss
- Kidney Disease
- Sleep Problems and many more.