Every year, more than three million people will be diagnosed with psoriasis, a chronic skin disease that is triggered by a defective autoimmune reaction in the body. The deficiency causes one’s own immune system to go into overdrive and attack normal skin tissue causing the skin to become inflamed, resulting in patches of painful skin plaque. Psoriasis is not always easy to control, but now many treatment options are available to manage this chronic disease.
Psoriasis attacks the body’s largest organ, which is the skin
Many people don’t realize that the skin is considered an organ, and it’s actually the body’s largest organ. The skin that you can see is the outermost skin called the epidermis, and it protects your body from infection and injury. Typically, the epidermis just goes about its business shedding old dead skin cells and replacing them with new cells. When someone has psoriasis, though, the process is disrupted as the immune system attacks the skin, causing new cells to grow abnormally fast. These new cells build up over dead cells, resulting in inflamed raised patches on the skin that can be very painful. There are several forms of psoriasis:
- Plaque psoriasis: this is the most common form as inflamed patches typically appear on the arms, legs, torso, knees and elbows
- Pustular psoriasis: this form appears as tiny blisters, or pustules, that are filled with pus and can be found all over the body or in a small area like the palms or soles of the feet
- Guttate psoriasis: this form is found mostly in children and appears as small red spots and typically occurs just before a child is diagnosed with strep throat
When it comes to risk factors in adults, doctors say there are several issues that can increase your risk for psoriasis:
- Having a parent with psoriasis
- Having HIV or strep throat
- Increased stress as stress impacts your immune system
If you experience unusual red skin patches that are itchy or painful, alert your doctor. A physical exam, including a skin biopsy, may be needed to determine if your skin irritation is psoriasis or another skin disease.
Psoriasis treatment is customized as no two patients are alike
When it comes to treating psoriasis, there is no one-size-fits-all approach because treatment is determined by other underlying medical issues and the severity of psoriasis, which is graded on a scale of mild to severe. Age is also a factor as psoriasis is commonly diagnosed in two different age groups, those ages 30-39 and then people between ages 50-69. The good news today is that those with psoriasis have many treatment options available such as:
- Ointments and creams that moisturize the skin and reduce inflammation, such as steroid creams or Vitamin D cream
- Ultraviolet light therapy
- Laser treatment
- Oral medications
- TNF-alfa inhibitors, which are injectable medications that suppress the autoimmune reaction that triggers inflammation
When it comes to long-term treatment, your primary care doctor may refer you to a dermatologist or a doctor specializing in treating skin disorders. You may also be advised to consult with a nutritionist as some doctors do recommend an anti-inflammatory diet. Right now, there is no cure for psoriasis. However, it’s a condition which can be managed by staying in touch with your doctor and not letting this disease get out of control.
About Dr. Bertha Daniels:
Dr. Bertha Daniels specializes in family medicine and is the medical director of ambulatory geriatrics for West Jefferson Medical Center. She initially joined the medical staff at West Jefferson Medical Center in 2000 and remained until 2017 when she transitioned to Tulane University Medical Center. She provided patient care at Tulane and taught medical students as an assistant professor for Tulane University School of Medicine. Dr. Daniels returned to the West Jefferson Medical Center staff in January 2021 and is enjoying developing ambulatory services for seniors. In her spare time she really enjoys traveling.