|Psoriasis: What is it and How is it Treated?|
The purpose of this handout is to give you some useful information about psoriasis and its treatment. At this time psoriasis cannot be cured but can be helped and improved with treatment. You may have had psoriasis for a long time and know a great deal about it, or you may have just found out that you have this condition. Some treatments you may have used before. It is important that you know all you can about psoriasis so that you can better understand the treatments and how to get the best possible results.
PSORIASIS IS A CHRONIC SCALING DISEASE of the skin. It may range from just a few spots anywhere on the body to large areas of involvement. It is not contagious or spreadable from one part of the body to another or from one person to another.
PSORIASIS DOES NOT AFFECT the overall general health. If it is widespread it can certainly cause a great deal of skin discomfort and emotional embarrassment, and can affect job and leisure time activities. Fortunately most people who have psoriasis only have a small amount and while it certainly can be a nuisance, it does not alter the lifestyle.
THERE IS NO PRESENT CURE FOR PSORIASIS, but there are a number of drugs and treatments that can relieve and control psoriasis, often for long periods of time. Psoriasis on its own can come and go often with long periods of remission. In most cases, however, psoriasis is persistent. It can come and go without any obvious reason. Psoriasis does not necessarily become worse with age. Psoriasis can occur at any age from infancy to the elderly. Psoriasis will often remain in small localized areas and never spread.
THERE ARE SOME THINGS that can make psoriasis worse at times. It helps to be aware of these aggravating factors. But remember, psoriasis can flare without any seeming cause. The following are some of the things which seem to make psoriasis worse in some people:
1. Skin injury and irritation
RUBBING, SCRATCHING, AND SUNBURN could all make psoriasis worse. You should try to stop mechanically irritating your psoriasis if possible. Psoriasis can develop for the first time in sites of skin injury from cuts, burns or infections.
2. Sun exposure
FOR MOST PEOPLE WITH PSORIASIS, moderate sun exposure is very helpful, but sunburn can cause psoriasis to flare. A small number (perhaps 10 percent) of people may find their psoriasis worsens with sun exposure. If you are a fair-skinned person you may need sunscreens to protect against sunburn.
NO CONSISTENT LINKAGE WITH PSORIASIS has yet been found; however there are certain important guidelines one should follow.
4. Stress and anxiety
SOME PEOPLE FIND that stress and tension seems to make their psoriasis worse. If this does occur, it is important to try to find ways to lessen the stress situations.
SOME DRUGS GIVEN for other reasons can make psoriasis worse, but certainly not in everyone. These drugs include: gold, lithium, beta-blockers such as Inderal used for hypertension. Your dermatologist should know if you are taking any medications. If you have questions by all means ask.
SOME THROAT AND UPPER RESPIRATORY TRACT INFECTIONS -- especially strepto-coccal infections can make your psoriasis worse. This is most commonly seen in children and adolescents.
TREATMENT IS DETERMINED by the location, severity and history of psoriasis in each individual. There is no one way of treatment, for each person with psoriasis may respond differently.
MANY DERMATOLOGISTS PREFER cortisone creams or ointments for starting treatment. They are easy to use and are probably the best form of therapy for such areas as the scalp, face, ears and skin folds. Misuse of topical cortisone creams, putting on strong creams on the skin for too often and too long, can lead to changes in skin colour, thinning and easy bruising. The face and skin folds are special danger areas. Often if only cortisone creams are used for treatment, the psoriasis will become resistant and will flare quickly if the creams are stopped.
IT IS KNOWN that the application of tars to the skin can improve psoriasis. The problem is that many tars are messy and smelly to use. The purified tars in creams and ointments or gels are much easier and more pleasant to use. Tar seems to increase the effectiveness of ultraviolet light. The tars can also be used in solutions for bathing.
THIS IS AN OLD REMEDY for psoriasis but is probably the most effective of all topical treatments. The disadvantage of anthralin is that it is messy, stains clothing and the skin. However if directions for its use are followed, these side effects can be minimized.
4. Ultraviolet Light
AS MENTIONED, sunlight is helpful in a majority of patients. Because of our weather pattern, we cannot rely on sunlight for much of the year.
PATIENTS WITH MORE EXTENSIVE DISEASE that does not respond to topical preparations may need more intensive treatment. None of these treatments however, produce a permanent cure of psoriasis.
PSORIASIS CAN VARY from a nuisance problem to a life-altering condition. You should know as much as you can about psoriasis, the aggravating circumstances and the treatments. The object of treatment is to improve your psoriasis to the best degree possible so that it is physically and socially acceptable to you.