What is Psoriasis
Psoriasis is defined as an autoimmune disease affecting both skin & joints. The condition is non-contagious, but is chronic. Psoriasis commonly causes reddened scaly patches on the skin. These scaly patches are identified as psoriatic plaques which are inflamed with excessive skin production. The skin in these areas can be whitish in color.
Psoriasis can vary in severity from small and barely noticeable to severe full body coverage. It can affect the fingernails and toenails (called psoriatic nail dystrophy). Psoriasis usually affects the skin of the elbows and knees, but it can affect any area on the body.
In addition to the affects it has on the skin, psoriasis can also cause the joints to become inflamed. This is called psoriatic arthritis, and many people with psoriasis also end up with psoriatic arthritis.
Currently, the cause of psoriasis is unknown. Factors that may bring about psoriasis include alcohol consumption and smoking, stress and genetic factors.
What Causes Psoriasis
“No one knows exactly what causes psoriasis, but it is believed to have a genetic component. Most researchers agree that the immune system is somehow mistakenly triggered, which speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells. A normal skin cell matures and falls off the body’s surface in 28 to 30 days. But a psoriatic skin cell takes only three to four days to mature and move to the surface. Instead of falling off (shedding), the cells pile up and form the lesions.”
Source: National Psoriasis Foundation
Psoriasis Treatment Options
Psoriasis treatments falls into 4 main categories: oral medications, biologic injections, topical medications and UV phototherapy treatment at your dermatologist’s office. Systemic medications (biologicals, also called ‘TNF inhibitors’) like Enbrel®, Amevive® and Raptiva® used to treat psoriasis despite the severe side effects they commonly produce, including both cancer and death.
How Does Phototherapy Work
Exposing affected skin cells to UV light through short, frequent sessions of exposure causes the skin cells to die, eliminating or improving symptoms, providing relief from psoriasis for many people. Although there is no cure for psoriasis, phototherapy treatments help significantly in upwards of 80% of the cases.
Your doctor may prescribe phototherapy using light in the Ultraviolet-A (UVA) or Ultraviolet-B (UVB) range for treating psoriasis.
When comparing the two, UVB has the added advantage of producing fewer adverse side effects, as the long-term use of the psoriasis medication psoralen is eliminated.
UVA: When using UVA light, doctors often combine UVA phototherapy with an oral or topical medicine called psoralen. The addition of psoralen (PUVA) makes the skin more sensitive to the UVA light, producing a greater effect than UVA light alone, but introducing the potential for side effects from using psoralen.
UVB: An improved understanding of UVB light allowed doctors to better refine phototherapy treatment by including a very precise range of UVB wavelengths, called narrowband UVB light (nbUVB). Evidence has given new hope to psoriasis sufferers and suggests that nbUVB phototherapy treatments offers even better treatment results than broadband UVB therapy for certain patients. Currently nbUVB is one of the main treatments for patients with mild to severe psoriasis. Broadband UVB lamps emit a broad range of light over the UVB spectrum.
The Emotional Effects of Psoriasis
Living with psoriasis is not only physically debilitating, it can also affect a person emotionally, and can be a major part of living with the skin disorder. Self-esteem, mood, interaction with others, sense of well-being and all-around quality of life can all impact the condition.
Because psoriasis affects the skin by causing lesions, scales, redness and irritation, it visibly affects a person’s appearance. Like acne, rosacea, vitiligo and other skin disorders, the skin irritation can make a person feel uncomfortable, unattractive or even ugly. Dealing with psoriasis as a child or teenager can be even worse as classmates can be more prone to tease someone for looking different, especially if they don’t understand what the skin condition is. Even as adults, people might see the psoriasis and think it is contagious and stay away from those with the condition. This can quickly lead to embarrassment anger, frustration or sadness which could in turn, affect personal and social relationships with others, participation in activities and even job performance, especially if your psoriasis causes pain, itchiness or other discomfort.
Positive Steps Toward Healthier Skin & A Healthier Life
Below are some positive tips to help psoriasis suffers cope with the emotional effects of the skin condition;
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition, and although there is no psoriasis cure, there is hope. Speak with your doctor and familiarize yourself with the treatment options available, then develop a routine treatment schedule. Managing your symptoms and keeping the skin condition in remission can positively affect the way you look and feel!
Depression and anxiety could potentially make your condition worse, making it even more important to have a regular routine that works for you to keep your psoriasis in check!
Let others know about your condition. Explain to them that psoriasis is not contagious, not curable and is a chronic skin disorder. Ignorance often leads to insensitivity so sharing your knowledge of psoriasis can prevent others from feeling nervous or uncomfortable.
Over 7 million people in the United States suffer from psoriasis, and that is only those that have been diagnosed. Connect with others who have the condition by taking part in message boards or join a support group where you can share your feelings as well as tips and techniques for living with psoriasis.