Psoriasis is a disorder of the skin that affects over 6 million people in the United States alone. Research has not definitively established what exactly causes psoriasis, but recent studies have indicated that it may be an immune mediated disorder. Psoriasis occurs when the body generates too many skin cells and may change from one type to another within a matter of days. It may improve, flare up, and even go into remission only to return at a later date. When alternative treatments are used in conjunction with other treatments the patient is given a feeling of control over the negative mental aspects associated with psoriasis.
Signs and symptoms of plaque psoriasis include, but are not limited to, red and raised skin patches topped by silvery-white scales. Outbreaks most commonly occur on the elbows, knees, buttocks, scalp, and lower back; The affected areas often have pain, itching, and cracking and the patches may join together to form large affected areas on the back and chest. Another type of psoriasis is Guttate psoriasis which is most often triggered by bacterial infections and are most common in childhood or young adulthood. The signs and symptoms of Guttate psoriasis include small, drop-like lesions on the limbs, trunk, and scalp. The most significant risk factor for psoriasis is having a family history of the disease. About one in three people with psoriasis have a close relative with the condition.
Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body, including the scalp, genitals, around the ears, eyes, mouth, and nose plus on the hands and feet. Psoriasis of the nails is also considerably common. Nail changes occur in up to 50% of people with psoriasis and at least 80% of people with psoriatic arthritis. The nail problems most commonly experienced by psoriasis patients are pitting which causes shallow or deep holes in the nail. Deformation causes alterations in the normal shape of the nail plus thickening of the nail. Separation of the nail from the nail bed, also called onycholysis, may occur plus unusual nail coloration such as yellow-brown. Because psoriasis affects the nail while it’s being formed, it is difficult to treat. The matrix, where the nail is formed, is difficult to penetrate with topical medications.
Treatment for psoriasis is based on the severity of the disease and its responsiveness to prior treatments. Topical medication is the lowest level of treatment and is applied to the skin. Treatments from each level are often combined or switched around every 12 to 24 months to reduce resistance and adverse reactions. A treatment plan that is effective for one person may fail for another so trial and error and personal preferences often guide the course of treatment. Over time, psoriasis tends to resist its treatments. The locations, size and amount of psoriasis, prior treatments, and the specific form of the disorder are factored into treatment options. Psoriasis sufferers may also find that a medicated bath may help soothe the skin, remove scales and help to reduce itching. These baths are done by soaking for 15 minutes in oatmeal, Epsom salts or Dead Sea salts.