Psoriasis carries a host of symptoms that can be painful, as well as embarrassing. There is no cure, but there are many treatment options.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the skin and the body’s response is to overproduce skin cells. It is a lifelong condition, incurable at the moment, and it is not contagious. People with this disease are at an increased risk of stroke and some other medical conditions. The types are plaque, inverse, pustular, guttate, and erythrodermic. Non-pustular forms are psoriasis vulgaris (the most common) and psoriatic erythroderma, the latter of which has swelling, pain, and itching, and it can be fatal (as the skin’s temperature regulation and barrier functionality are compromised). Pustular psoriasis makes pus-filled raised bumps on the skin, and the skin underneath is “red and tender”. Some patients have no symptoms on their skin. Plaque psoriasis, the most common one, forms scaly patches on the skin. They have “red and white hues” and get a “silvery-white appearance” from the build-up of skin. Typical areas affected are knees and elbows, but it can also make plaques on the hands and fingernails, feet and toes, scalp, and genitals. In guttate psoriasis, scaly “teardrop-shaped” lesions occur, and it is typically preceded by a strep infection. With the inverse type, the skin has inflamed smooth patches, and it is found in skin folds and is irritated by sweat and friction. It can also develop fungal infections. There is also a drug-induced type. A recurring disorder, it can cover small areas to nearly the entire body. A related condition, psoriatic arthritis, which is found in 10% (or more) of psoriasis patients, can cause joint inflammation. The fingers and toes are generally affected, but it can also impact the knees, hips, and spine. This autoimmune disease has a possible genetic component to it. Patients with this (and certain other conditions) can have local changes to their skin along a skin injury line, which is called the “Koebner phenomenon”. There may also be environmental triggers for this autoimmune disease, such as stress, corticosteroid withdrawal, and oxidative stress.1
Current Medical Treatments
The medical treatments for this disease can help to control the condition, but there is no cure and psoriasis will recur. Some patients may benefit from “biologics”, administered via IV. Others may respond to “systemics”, which are oral or injected. Phototherapy is another treatment. In light therapy, the skin is exposed to medically-supervised UV light. “Topicals” are over-the-counter and prescription treatments that the patient applies to the skin. There are even complementary and alternative (CAM) options for managing psoriasis.2
The various CAM alternatives for this condition include nutrition, supplements, exercise, and various therapies. Eating a healthy diet and eliminating suspected trigger foods can help some patients manage their condition. Some patients may turn to herbal remedies and mind/body therapies, while others may include exercises, yoga, and tai chi to improve their overall health.3 Additional alternative therapies include hands-on techniques to not only help provide relief for psoriasis, but to ease psoriatic arthritis. These include acupressure, acupuncture, massage, and even Reiki.4 Chiropractic care can not only help patients with their nutrition, but chiropractors can provide relief for patients with psoriatic arthritis. Chiropractors aim to help improve overall health and believe in the body’s ability to heal itself. They look at the source of the pain, not just symptom relief. Techniques may include traction, massage, ultrasound, and rehabilitation and ergonomic advice.5
Learn more about skin irritations and rashes.