Although the most common symptoms of psoriasis are present on the skin, the disease is complex. It can affect your physical, psychological and social health.
However, psoriasis can be tough to diagnose. In 2014, the World Health Organization developed a resolution that stated that too many individuals suffer because they don’t get a proper diagnosis or adequate care.
There is no cure for psoriasis, but the condition may be managed with proper understanding of triggers and treatments. If you live with psoriasis, you can get some relief by monitoring and adjusting your diet, stress levels, and emotional health.
What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that arises from an autoimmune disorder. Your immune system is designed to keep you healthy. Normally, the immune system defends against invaders. An overactive immune system attacks healthy cells in the body. If you have psoriasis, your body attacks the skin, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Your body launches an inflammatory response that causes your skin cells to multiply. As this happens, you develop dry flakes of skin that resemble scales. Because psoriasis is an inflammatory disease, the skin can also become red and inflamed.
The scales can be red or itchy. They may also affect your self-esteem. Many people worry that others are disgusted by the symptoms of psoriasis. However, the condition is not contagious.
More than seven million Americans have psoriasis. The American Academy of Dermatology Association says that at least 80 percent of those individuals have plaque psoriasis. Less common types of the disease include:
- Guttate psoriasis: Causes small pink spots that are rarely raised
- Pustular psoriasis: Causes white blisters that are filled with pus
- Inverse psoriasis: Causes shiny, red patches of skin in warm, moist skin folds
- Erythrodermic psoriasis: Life-threatening variation that affects large areas of the body
- Psoriatic arthritis: Causes swollen, painful joints in addition to skin symptoms
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and severity of psoriasis can vary from person to person, depending on the type of psoriasis that you have. Most people who have plaque psoriasis experience at least one of the following symptoms:
- Red, inflamed blotches of skin
- Silvery-white coating on the red areas
- Cracking, bleeding skin
- Nail thickening or changes
- Joint pain
If you have plaque psoriasis, the patches will usually form on the hands, elbows, knees, scalp, or lower back, but they can appear anywhere, including inside your mouth. Smaller patches can join together to form bigger ones.
In some cases, symptoms are only present on the finger and toenails. This type of psoriasis can be difficult to treat. It is often misdiagnosed as a fungal infection.
The scaly skin comes and goes. Certain triggers can make psoriasis symptoms flare up. Cold weather can make symptoms worse. Stress can also exacerbate symptoms. Understanding psoriasis symptom triggers can help you prevent flare-ups. Sometimes, though, flares can be difficult to predict. Medicinenet explains that psoriasis could be linked to other inflammatory conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
Common Treatment Options
Psoriasis can’t be cured, but it can be managed so that you can maintain a high quality of life. Medical treatments are often used to keep symptoms at bay. You may need to change your treatment plan when you’re experiencing a flare-up.
Topical treatments may be effective for psoriasis that affects small areas of the body. Some creams or lotions that may be applied to the skin include:
- Salicylic acid
Traditional Psoriasis Medications
It isn’t practical to use topical treatments if your psoriasis affects a large portion of the body. Systemic medications may be necessary for treating large-scale psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Some medications that are used for psoriasis treatment include:
- Injected steroids
Biologics are a type of systemic medication that target a specific part of the immune system. Biologics are usually delivered by IV or injection. They inhibit the activity of certain components of the immune system, easing symptoms of psoriasis.
New Oral Medications
New oral treatments for psoriasis are different than biologics and older medications. These newer options, like apremilast, affect specific immune cell molecules, controlling inflammatory activity.
Phototherapy includes exposing the skin to artificial lights that emit certain wavelengths of UV rays. These lights are usually only found in physicians’ offices, but some are sold directly to the consumer. Newer light sources, such as lasers, are being developed for the treatment of psoriasis.
Certain lifestyle factors can worsen psoriasis symptoms. Staying physically and mentally healthy can reduce the severity of your psoriasis.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you’re overweight, losing the extra pounds may improve your psoriasis symptoms, researchers have found. People who are overweight tend to have more inflammation in their bodies. Exercising moderately and consuming minimally processed foods may reduce inflammation and improve your psoriasis symptoms.
Avoid Certain Foods
Some foods are known to trigger psoriasis symptoms. This could be due to the inflammatory response that many people have to these foods. If you have psoriasis, you might want to experiment with eliminating the following foods from your diet:
- Red meat
- Dairy products
- Saturated fats
- Refined sugar
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar may be soothing to the skin. Applying it to scaly patches can reduce pain and itching, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. This may not be an option if your skin is cracked. If apple cider vinegar treatment does work for you, you should experience a reduction in symptoms within a few weeks.
Turmeric is touted for its anti-inflammatory properties. You can take it as a supplement or add it generously to food during a flare.
Sunlight and Vitamin D
Natural sunlight is made up of UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays slow down your skin’s growth and shedding cycle, says Healthline. You may experience benefits from getting just 10 minutes of sunlight a day. You can increase your exposure time by 30 seconds each day if you can handle 10 minutes.
To maximize the effectiveness of sunlight therapy, you should avoid wearing sunscreen during this time. On the other hand, getting a sunburn can make psoriasis symptoms worse. Reduce your risk of sun damage by covering unaffected areas of skin and limiting your time in the sun.
Sunlight can boost vitamin D levels in the body. Vitamin D has been shown to reduce inflammation. Researchers have found that people with psoriasis are more likely to have low vitamin D levels than those without the condition. You might consider taking a vitamin D supplement or consuming foods that are rich in the vitamin, such as salmon, tuna, egg yolks, and fortified juice.