What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis on the skin commonly looks like a red rash with thick white scale. It is an immune reaction, which is chronic, non-contagious and can effect all ages. Psoriasis can sometimes spread and lead to inflammation of the joints, this is referred to as psoriatic arthritis. 10-15% of people with psoriasis have psoriatic arthritis.
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, but most doctors believe it occurs when the immune system overacts, causing inflammation and flaking of the skin. It often runs in families (inherited).
There is currently no known cure for psoriasis. However, research in psoriasis is moving forward quickly and there are many available treatment options to improve symptoms. We will work with you to find a treatment that is best for you.
- Topical Medication:
Treatments include moisturizers as well as medicated creams, ointment, solutions and shampoos.
Another availably treatment for psoriasis is phototherapy, in combination with other therapies or on its own. During phototherapy, the affected areas are briefly exposed to intense narrow band ultraviolet B light (UVB) 2-3 times a week. This therapy is often quite effective and safe. It is an excellent option for people who do not want to take medications internally. The excimer laser provides this treatment in a more intense and focused form and can be quite effective for psoriasis on the scalp, hands and feet - areas that are often resistant to other treatments.
- Oral Medication:
When topical medications and phototherapy do not effectively treat moderate to severe psoriasis, oral medication may be prescribed. Methotrexate, retinoids, cyclosporine and some newer medications are all used to treat psoriasis. However, these drugs can have serious side effects, such as weakening the immune system, and liver or kidney damage, which is why they are generally reserved for more severe cases.
Biologics are medications similar to the proteins made by the body. They block the response of the body’s immune system that causes psoriasis. Biologics are generally used for people who cannot use other treatment. They are generally as effective as other oral medications, but may have fewer side effects. However, the long-term safety of some of the newer biologics is unknown.
We can't prevent psoriasis, but it may be possible to reduce flare-ups and improve symptoms. We also now know there is a link between psoriasis and heart disease. It is important to practice heart-healthy behaviors:
- Keep skin moisturized.
- Avoid extreme cold or dry climates. In Minnesota that is not always possible - but, a humidifier can go a long way to helping the skin stay hydrated.
- Avoid scratching or picking skin.
- Avoid infection. Strep throat in particular can cause psoriasis to appear suddenly, especially in children.
- Limit alcohol intake, and do not smoke. Alcohol use can cause symptoms to flare-up (particularly gluten-containing alcoholic beverages, such as beer), and smoking may make psoriasis more severe, or cause the symptoms to last longer.
- Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, including omega fatty acids