What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic condition which manifests primarily as a skin disorder. Scientists and doctors are unsure as to exactly what the cause is, but the current belief is that it is a disorder of the immune system. Five distinct types of psoriasis can be seen: plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic. A full understanding of this condition requires a review of the symptoms, causes, treatments, and helpful dietary choices for those who suffer from it.
While the various types of psoriasis manifest differences in symptoms, some of these symptoms of psoriasis are common to all types, such as the following examples:
• Inflamed, raised, red sores
• Scaly silver-toned patches
• Small, individual, red spots (less common in adults)
• Excessively dry skin which may crack or bleed
• Sore, burning, or itchy skin
• Nails which separate from the nail bed or are pitted
At this time, it is still unclear as to what the exact causes of psoriasis are. Scientists believe that it is a combination of factors, rather than one specific issue, that results in its development. These factors include genetics, environmental issues, and the immune system of the patient.
Genetics: 33% of all people who suffer from psoriasis report that a family member suffers from it as well. Current research shows that up to 10% of the population will inherit genes that may contribute to the development of psoriasis, but only 2-3% will actually develop it.
Environmental Issues: The number of environmental triggers is large, and what causes the development of psoriasis in one person may have no effect on another. Common environmental triggers include the following:
• Stress
• Skin injury
• Infection
• Medication
• Tobacco and alcohol consumption
• Cold temperatures
• Diet
• Allergies
Immune System: Under normal circumstances, skin cells take weeks to go through a full cycle, from development to shedding. In people who suffer from psoriasis, the immune system attacks healthy skin cells, believing them to be infections. This prompts the creation of new cells at a faster rate than the body can shed off old ones. What results is an area where too many skin cells are attempting to be in the same place.
Diagnosis and treatment for psoriasis should be performed by a dermatologist. While discussing treatment options, be sure to discuss any changes in your symptoms, frequency of flare ups, what treatments you have used and their effectiveness, and any other health conditions you have. Psoriasis treatment falls into one of three categories: topical, systemic, or phototherapy.
Topical: This is the most common first course of treatment. Topical treatment involves applying medications directly to the skin and allowing the therapeutic agents to be absorbed directly into the affected areas.
Systemic: Available in either oral or injectable form, systemic treatments allow the medication to work from inside the body. These types of treatments are used when patients experience only minimal success with topicals.
Phototherapy: Phototherapy, also known as light therapy, is frequently used in addition to topical or systemic treatment. The patient’s skin is exposed to ultraviolet light in the hopes that it will destroy some of the skin cells in the infected area.
While diet plays a large part in a healthy lifestyle, following a specific psoriasis diet can help to alleviate many of the more bothersome symptoms.
Foods to avoid:
• Red meat
• High fat dairy
• Processed and refined foods
• Alcohol
Foods to eat more of:
• Vegetables and fruit
• Whole grains
• Lower fat dairy
• Fish and lean meats
Psoriasis can be a difficult condition to live with. By knowing the potential causes and common symptoms, you can work with your doctor to accurately diagnose and treat the problem. By adhering to the above dietary suggestions, you will increase the effectiveness of any treatment option.