By Joan Weems, RN
The cause of psoriasis remains largely a mystery. Psoriasis skin cells mature about five times faster than cells in normal skin. And unlike normal skin cells, which naturally slough off, these cells pile up on the skin’s surface, making your skin become flaky, inflamed, thick, white, silvery, or have red patches. Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition. Researchers believe that psoriasis develops when something mistakenly triggers the immune system. And in psoriatic arthritis––psoriasis that affects the joints––both genetics and environmental factors seem to play a role. Psoriasis is a common skin condition affecting 2% of the Caucasian population in the United States. Psoriasis often affects the tips of the elbows and knees, the scalp and ears, the navel, and around the genital area or anus.
Established psoriasis triggers
Stress––Stress makes your body go into a protective mode by sending chemicals that cause inflammation, which leads to flare-ups. Take up exercise, yoga, massage, hobbies you enjoy or you may use relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, focused breathing, and meditation.
Injury to skin––Psoriasis can appear in areas of the skin that have been injured or traumatized. This could be a cut or scrape, bug bite, or severe sunburn.
Medications––Certain medications are associated with triggering psoriasis, including lithium, which is prescribed for bipolar disorder; high blood pressure medications such as beta-blockers; antimalarial drugs; and iodides.
Infection––Anything that can affect the immune system can affect psoriasis. In particular, streptococcus infection (strep throat), or an earache, bronchitis, tonsillitis or a respiratory infection can trigger a flare-up of psoriasis.
Cold weather––When the weather is colder and drier, psoriasis tends to flare. Most people find their skin is better in the summer and worse in the winter.
Smoking––Smoking may make your psoriasis worse and make it harder to get it under control. If you smoke, try to cut back or quit.
Heavy alcohol consumption––Drinking alcohol may interfere with your treatment. Drinking can prevent your medication from working. It can also make it hard to get your psoriasis under control.
Medicines as prescribed by your doctor are best, but there are things you can do to treat your psoriasis without a prescription.
Take daily baths––Taking daily baths help remove scales and calm inflamed skin. Add bath oil, colloidal oatmeal, Epsom salts or Dead Sea salts to the water and soak. Avoid hot water and harsh soaps, which can worsen symptoms.
Use moisturizer––Apply thick ointments like petroleum jelly, shortening, olive oil, or heavy skin creams while your skin is still moist. Keep the skin covered with a bandage or plastic wrap. Do this daily. During cold, dry weather, you may need to apply a moisturizer several times a day.
Expose your skin to small amounts of sunlight––A controlled amount of sunlight can significantly improve lesions, but too much sun can trigger or worsen outbreaks and increase the risk of skin cancer.
Consider diet changes––A healthy, well balanced diet is recommended.
Tend to your mental health––It can be difficult talking to friends and family about your psoriasis and how it affects your life. Psoriasis may impact your relationships, but it doesn’t need to control them. People with psoriasis are more likely to become depressed.
A few months or maybe even 20 years after getting psoriasis, some 10–15% of people also develop inflammation of joints (psoriatic arthritis). The onset of psoriatic arthritis generally occurs in the 40s and 50s and affects male and females equally. Psoriatic arthritis, a systemic rheumatic disease, can be complicated by issues within the skin or the joints and affect other areas of the body. The skin of psoriasis can become infected and require antibiotic treatments. The joints quickly can become destroyed, deformed, and functionless. With aggressive treatment, however, these complications are generally avoidable. It can also cause inflammation of the spine, tendons, cartilage, eyes, lung lining, and, rarely, the aorta. Psoriatic arthritis can cause swelling, stiffness and pain in and around the joints, cause nail changes and overall fatigue. The classic symptom is swollen digits that are difficult to bend.
Studies show that delaying treatment for psoriatic arthritis by as little as six months can result in permanent joint damage. Early recognition, diagnosis and treatment of psoriatic arthritis are critical to relieve pain and inflammation, and to help prevent joint damage.
Victory Home Health and Hospice plus Medical Equipment can assist you with all your healthcare needs. Call us at 888-815-7922 and a nurse will be glad to assist you with any questions you might have.