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Psoriasis - Article on patient education


Psoriasis is a long-term skin condition that creates red itchy scaly patches and most commonly involves the elbow, knee, nail, joint, and scalp. The skin lesions go through a cycle, they flare up for a few days or weeks and then subside. Though it is not a fatal disease, can occur frequently. Psoriasis is not contagious (you cannot pass on to others). This ailment is currently not curable; however, with the proper treatment, we can control it.

The causes of psoriasis are:

The genetics (hereditary), autoimmune (body tissue is attacked by its immune system) and environmental factors contribute to the disease, though the exact cause is not known. The chances of getting psoriasis are higher if one or both of the parents have the ailment.

The factors aggravating psoriasis are:

1. Infections causing sore throat, tonsillitis, HIV, etc

2. Stress

3. Smoking and excess intake of alcohol

4. Physical trauma can trigger psoriasis by injuring the skin

5. Certain pills which are given for high blood pressure (beta-blockers) and pain killers

6. Cold climate can worsen the skin condition in a few patients, whereas a tropical climate may worsen the skin lesions in others.

Psoriasis affects these areas of the body:

Mostly seen on the outer aspect of the forearm and legs, palms, soles, and scalp. It affects trauma prone areas of the body. Psoriasis causes pitting of nails, it may also thicken, causing ridges, and destroy the nail bed. The disease may involve joints causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. It affects hand joints most commonly.

The test to confirm this condition:

Skin biopsy (a small sample of the skin is taken and studied under the microscope) and blood tests to rule out other associated conditions.

The diseases associated with psoriasis:

Diabetes, high blood pressure, overweight, and heart conditions are associated with psoriasis.

Psoriasis treatment includes:

1.Topical therapy

• Moisturizers: keeps the skin moist, reduces itching and scaling

• Corticosteroids: used in mild to moderate psoriasis

• Vitamin D analogues

• Salicylic acid: to remove the scales

2. Phototherapy is the treatment with ultraviolet light.

3. Systemic drugs such as methotrexate and cyclosporin are used.

4. Biological agents are used in difficult to treat and unresponsive cases.

What are the lifestyle changes you should adopt?

Avoid tight clothes and shoes as they may injure skin and trigger psoriasis.

Balanced diet

Awareness about the ailment is important. Think, ponder, and learn more about this ailment; the triggers, the cause, response to the treatments, and side effects.

Limit alcohol consumption and smoking.

Reduce weight as overweight people are likely to present with severe psoriasis, so watch your body mass index (BMI). Body mass index is a measure of body fatness.

Reduce stress level as psychological stress can trigger psoriasis. Anxiety and fear about the ailment can, in turn, worsen psoriasis.

Reference:

Valia, R. G. & Valia, R. A. (2008) IADVL Textbook of Dermatology (3rd ed)

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