Psoriasis: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments
The skin is the largest organ and a multifaceted protector, shielding us from external or environmental elements, regulating temperature, and providing sensory input. However, the skin is not without its vulnerabilities. There can be times when the skin may undergo certain conditions. Psoriasis is one of them. Therefore, it is essential to take utmost care of your skin.
Are you wondering what does psoriasis look like? It is a chronic skin condition characterized by the rapid growth of skin cells that render the skin red, itchy, and leave scaly patches. It is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in your skin, primarily on the elbows, knees, trunk, that is the central part of the body that houses all organs, and scalp. The psoriasis condition goes through various cycles of excessive inflammation for a few weeks or months, which later on, subsides. It is a long-term condition with no cure in sight.
Types of Psoriasis
There are many types of psoriasis, some of which are listed below along with their symptoms and potential treatment options:
Plaque Psoriasis, also known as Psoriasis Vulgaris, is the most common type of psoriasis. New skin cells grow every 28-30 days. When your immune system overreacts, it causes inflammation leading to the overproduction of skin cells, wherein individuals may experience new cells developing and moving to the skin’s surface every 3-4 days. When new cells replace old cells, it creates plaques that look like scaly patches, which in severe cases, may impact the whole body. While this skin condition can affect just about anyone, an individual is more likely to have plaque psoriasis if they –
- Have a genetic history of psoriasis
- Consume alcohol
- Smoke or use tobacco products
- Are obese
- Take their medications infrequently
Symptoms of Plaque Psoriasis
Some symptoms of plaque psoriasis include:
- Raised red patches with silvery scales
- Cracks or fissures in the skin
- Itchiness and discomfort with a burning or stinging sensation
Plaque psoriasis accounts for about 80-90% of psoriasis cases. While the exact cause of this condition is unknown, some common plaque psoriasis triggers may include certain foods or prescription medicines, skin injuries, dry skin, or sun damage.
Treatment of Plaque Psoriasis
Here are some treatment options one can include:
- A medical professional may prescribe medicine injections, oral medicines, or phototherapy, which uses UV rays to help with certain skin diseases.
- Try consuming an anti-inflammatory diet, such as olive oil, leafy green vegetables, or oily fish.
- Shower in lukewarm water.
- Use mild soaps and perfumes that are skin sensitive.
The main fear surrounding any skin diseases is how easily one can contract it. However, the same is not the case for plaque psoriasis. It is not contagious and does not spread through skin-to-skin contact.
Guttate Psoriasis is an acute condition characterized by teardrop-shaped patches that appear on the arms, legs, torso, and scalp. This skin condition occurs without any warning signs and after an infection like strep throat. It is the second-most common type of psoriasis in children, adolescents, and adults, primarily under 30 years of age.
Symptoms of Guttate Psoriasis
These lesions are small in size and are scattered across the infected area. They can be red, pink, or brownish based on the skin color. The exact cause of this type of psoriasis is unclear. However, it may stem from genetic, environmental, or immune system-related factors, sinus or upper respiratory infections, or the flu.
Some symptoms include:
- Skin injuries, like a cut, burn, or insect bite
- Strep throat or tonsillitis that may result in Guttate psoriasis
- Medications such as anti-malarial drugs or beta-blockers
Treatment of Guttate Psoriasis
Majority of the individuals with this condition recover entirely. However, there is a strong chance for Guttate psoriasis to turn into plaque psoriasis.
No treatment is required if the lesions are mild. They clear up on their own within a few weeks. In severe cases of Guttate psoriasis, the following treatments are meted out:
- Creams and lotions that treat itching and inflammation. Creams containing corticosteroids or cortisones can help reduce inflammation.
- Biologic medications that target specific parts of your immune system to block psoriasis.
- Phototherapy or laser therapy if the condition worsens.
- Recommended over-the counter medications.
Inverse Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition causing lesions in sensitive areas where skin rubs against itself, such as the armpits, groin, under the breasts, and the skin folds around the genitals. Owing to its location, the disease may also result in skin irritation from rubbing or sweating and cause bacterial, fungal, and yeast infections. These skin folds are called flexures, and therefore, the disease is also known as flexural psoriasis.
Middle-aged or older individuals are more likely to get diagnosed with this condition.
Symptoms of Inverse Psoriasis
The onset of symptoms is marked by:
- Patches of skin in body folds that may appear red or pinkish on lighter skin and purple or brownish on darker skin.
- Shiny lesions forming on the infected area.
- Irritation due to sweat accumulating in the area and the skin rubbing against itself.
The rashes caused by inverse psoriasis are neither raised nor dry. However, they are moist to touch.
Treatment of Inverse Psoriasis
Although there is no cure for inverse psoriasis, you can try out the following options:
- Topical steroids mixed with medication, but they may cause the skin to become more sensitive and thinner.
- Calcineurin inhibitors stop the body’s immune system from producing substances which may cause skin diseases.
- Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system.
- Coal tar as a soothing agent can be applied directly or added to bath water to relieve symptoms.
- Biologic medicines are made from living cells that target specific parts of your immune system. Biologics use proteins to block the immune system’s response and prevent it from attacking your body. When biologics are used as a treatment method, you are given an injection or intravenous infusion of biologic drugs on a schedule.
- Light therapy or Phototherapy, wherein the ultraviolet or UVB rays slow the growth of skin cells.
- Some lifestyle adjustments can also go a long way in keeping such skin conditions at bay. Wear loose clothing made of cotton or natural fibers that enables your skin to breathe. Don’t let your clothes rub against your skin which may cause irritation.
- You can also powder the affected area with baking soda, corn starch, or zinc oxide to absorb the moisture.
There is no cure for psoriasis. Apart from the treatment options mentioned for the different types of psoriasis, here are some other treatment variations available:
Topical treatments are often the first line of defense against this skin condition. They are applied directly to the infected areas and can reduce redness, inflammation, and scaling. Some examples of this treatment include Topical Retinoids, Corticosteroids, Coal Tar and Calcineurin Inhibitors, Phototherapy, UVB Therapy, PUVA Therapy, to name a few.
Derived from vitamin A, Retinoids are pills used to reduce skin cell production. It is advisable for pregnant or lactating mothers to avoid this medication. Some side effects of this medication include dry skin or muscle soreness.
PUVA therapy is a combination treatment of taking a drug called Psoralen (P) and then exposing the skin to ultraviolet light (UVA). Psoralen is a drug that makes the skin sensitive to the UVA. This is a more aggressive treatment used when other treatments have failed. Naurea, headache, or a burning and itching sensation can be some short-term side effects of this treatment. Some possible long-term side effects include an increased risk of skin cancer, increased sun sensitivity, wrinkled skin, or freckles.
Apremilast is a medication which helps improve flexibility in the joints and decreases pain and swelling. For plaque psoriasis, it can aid in reducing redness, thickening, and scaling of the skin.
Lifestyle and Home Care
Incorporate lifestyle changes and self-care strategies to keep your skin clean and free from diseases.
- Keep your skin well hydrated with a good quality moisturizer.
- Practice hygiene. Shower everyday and clean your skin with a mild, fragrance-free soap.
- Pat your skin dry with a soft towel instead of rubbing harshly.
- Always put on sunscreen, wear sunglasses, and carry a hat, scarf, or an umbrella before you step outside to protect yourself from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
- Consume a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, and whole grains. Avoid consuming processed, refined, salty, or fried foods.
- Get at least 30-minutes of exercise everyday to maintain your weight.
- Clean your surroundings on a regular basis.
Avoid smoking and consuming alcohol which can also have a detrimental impact on your skin health. Stress can also cause a flare-up in the types of psoriasis. So, journal, garden, take a walk, listen to music, cook, paint, or practice yoga – anything that helps you keep stress at bay.
Psoriasis is a complex medical health conclusion that can be challenging to live with. Since these skin conditions have no definitive cure, it is necessary to take care of your skin health. In case you feel any discomfort or irritation, consult an expert dermatologist specializing in skin conditions and take timely action. Despite this, there is still hope for advancements in the medical field and treatment options to provide for a better standard of living for individuals who are diagnosed with any type of psoriasis.
Skin and Hair Academy’s online portal – Find a Dermatologist – can act as a comprehensive guide of specialized dermatologist. You can also explore the Skin and Hair Academy’s website to get more information on skin-related conditions and how to treat them.
Can psoriasis be completely cured, or is it a lifelong condition? What is the long-term outlook for people with psoriasis?
Answer – There is no cure available yet for psoriasis. Individuals diagnosed with psoriasis have a shorter life expectancy than people without this condition. However, managing this condition and getting it treated can help increase life span.
How can I identify nail psoriasis, and what are the available treatments for this specific type?
Answer – Out of the many types of psoriasis, nail psoriasis is also an autoimmune condition that causes discoloration around the nails. You may develop dents or pits in your nails. Another structural change can be nail thinning causing them to crumble.
Similar to the other types of psoriasis, nail psoriasis also has no cure. The same treatments, such as oral medicines, medicine injections, corticosteroids, and light therapy, apply to this disease. Some home remedies include applying aloe vera, turmeric, and dead sea salt on the infected area. Trim your nails and keep them short. Wash your hands and nails regularly to prevent infection.