Psoriasis - General Info
General information on a condition affecting one in 50 people. Cause unkown, though classified as another auto-immune disease. Stress is attributed as major aggravator, and teenagers are largest group of sufferers.
WHAT IS IT?
Psoriasis (pronounced so-rye-ah-sis) is a chronic skin condition that affects around one in fifty people. Most people first develop it between the ages of ten and forty years of age. During puberty is a particularly common time for it to appear because of the stressful events that may occur in the teenage years.
Under normal circumstances skin cells are replaced over 28 days but in psoriasis this takes just four days. These new skin cells gather and push up at the skin surface forming the raised red rash with silvery scales, called plaques. This rash can be very uncomfortable and itchy. Most often the rash appear on the knees, elbows, or the scalp. It can, however, appear anywhere on the body. The appearance also makes people feel very self-conscious about the way that they look. So much so that many people avoiding letting their skin be seen in public and wear inappropriate clothes in warm weather.
WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?
No one knows precisely what causes psoriasis. It often appears to be triggered by any of the following; a sore throat or chest infection; burns, sunburn or other skin injury; a stressful life event such as an exam, relationship problems, or bereavement, for example. Psoriasis is certainly not infectious and is nothing to do with poor skin hygiene. For around one in three people it runs in their family although it often skips a generation.
CAN I STOP IT?
Since little is understood about why psoriasis starts in the first place it's difficult to know what to do to avoid it. Generally speaking keeping stress levels at a minimum and the immune system strong to keep infections away may help. Although it's not yet possible to cure psoriasis it is possible to keep it at bay with treatment.
SHOULD I SEE DOCTOR?
It's important to get the diagnosis confirmed since many skin rashes look similar but need different treatments. The GP is usually able to do this and recommend the best treatment options. When more powerful treatments may be needed then an appointment with a skin specialist is recommended.
Light cotton clothes tend to be less irritating to the skin than wool or synthetic ones. The skin needs to be kept well moisturised and this helps prevent itching and irritation. Using an emollient cream or ointment will achieve this and some of these can also be used as a soap-substitute which helps keep the protective oils on the skin. A variety of skin creams and ointments are available to help remove the plaques and keep the psoriasis under control. Some people benefit from ultraviolet light treatment that is used and supervised by hospital clinics. Occasionally tablets are used to treat psoriasis when other methods are not helping. These suppress the immune system and again are monitored by hospital specialists.