The skin disease psoriasis consists mainly of an increased growth in the outer part of the skin, the epidermis. The symptoms usually appear at several spots at the same time which can be small and round, or wide areas of complicated shape. All parts of the body can be affected, but often around elbows and knees, in the scalp and in skin folds.
An affected area in the skin gets inflamed, thicker and red. On the area thick white flakes, called plaques, develop. The flakes are an abnormally thick outer keratin layer. Sometimes they are so extensive that they hide all the red skin at the affected area.
These flakes tend to fall off and leave sores. Some feel strong itching. Sometimes there are blisters that rupture and leave sores. This is usually not a sign of infection, but sores caused by psoriasis can get infected. People suffering from psoriasis also tend to develop rheumatoid arthritis due to some of the same deeper causes as the psoriasis itself.
The ultimate causes of the disease are poorly understood, but there is a hereditary component. Psoriasis can develop spontaneously, but infections by streptococci, skin injury, emotional stress and some medicines seem to trigger an outbreak. Psoriasis can start at any age, but often between 15 and 40. It tends to be chronic with god and bad periods when first started, and more or less serious.
The basic mechanism of psoriasis seems to be an auto-immune reaction, where the immune system attacks the skin and causes damage and inflammation. The skin reacts by an exaggerated repair activity which produces too many new cells. These are rapidly pushed towards the surface and peel up, making the whole epidermis thicker, and especially will the outer keratin layer develop into thick flakes.
The cell division in the basal part of the epidermis occur every 4-7 day in an affected area, while only every 30 day in an normal area. The symptoms of the disease are caused by the original damage, the inflammation, an increased blood circulation and the over-growth in combination.
TREATMENT OF PSORIASIS
Treatment of psoriasis is based on many principles: One tries to dissolve the dry flakes in a gentle manner. One uses methods to alleviate inflammation. One slows down the cell production by various methods. Sometimes one uses methods to decrease basic actions of the immune system. One tries to hinder complications like infection.
By treatment one has the policy of trying out methods that give small side effects even though they may be somewhat less effective, before using the most effective methods that also give stronger side effects and more serious risks. Professionals have however very different policies regarding treatment regimes, and the regime will also be adjusted for the individual patient.
Sufferers from psoriasis experience that various lifestyle components aggravate or lessen the disease, but this varies from person to person. Each sufferer must steadily observe what makes the disease worse or alleviates it, and adjust his lifestyle. A generally healthy lifestyle regarding diet and exercise is recommended, and many experience that slimming to a normal weight makes the condition better. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty-acids, as found in fish and seafood, seems to help many. Reducing consume of alcohol is also recommended sometimes. One should also avoid skin injury or factors that irritate the skin.
Baths, cleansers or washes with various ingredients to dissolve the plaques and to make the skin more elastic are much used by psoriasis. Such baths can contain ingredients like botanic oils, soda, Epsom salt, dead Sea salt, sulfur or wheat bran.
One can find salves with natural ingredients to dissolve plaques, make the skin more elastic, reduce itching, and reduce inflammation so that less plaque is formed. These products vary much in composition, but can contain ingredients like olive oil, argan oil, cod liver oil, jojoba oil, lemongrass oil, peppermint oil, rosehip seed oil, cayenne, salicylic acid, allantoin, citrus extract, echinacea, sarsaparilla, lemon dock, vitamin E and many others. Argan oil is also used in pure form for psoriasis treatment.
Salves containing calcipotriol, a derivative of vitamin D3, is often used to decrease the inflammation and the cell formation and thereby the other symptoms of psoriasis. Salves with the drug anthralin (dithranol) which slows down cell division is also a common treatment for psoriasis. These drugs tend however to irritate the skin and anthralin stains everything it comes in contact with.
Salves with corticosteroid hormones which counteracts inflammation are used to treat psoriasis. A side effect of corticosteroids used over a long time is thinning of the skin.
A traditional remedy which still is used for psoriasis are salves or baths containing tar, which has the ability to dissolve plaques and lessen the basic process that lead to formation of plaques. Tar gives however an increased risk for skin cancer.
Ultraviolet light lessen the inflammation and formation of plaques. It can be done by exposing the skin to natural sunshine and by using ultraviolet lamps. Usually one take a bath to dissolve plaques before ultraviolet light is applied. Sea-bath with sunshine exposure afterwards is a natural way of taking this treatment. The most effective UV light is of wavelength 313 nm, but rays of this wavelength give a higher risk of skin cancer. By severe psoriasis tablets or baths with the ingredient psoralen may be used before quick radiation with ultraviolet light. This substance increases the effect of UV light. The combination is called PUVA treatment.
For severe psoriasis that do not respond to outer treatment, systemic treatment through mouth or by injections of medications that reduce cell division and cell maturation is used. Examples of these are derivatives of vitamin A called retinoids and cytostatica like methotrexat in low doses. Systemic treatment by immune suppressing drugs like cyclosporine are also sometimes used for severe psoriasis. These drugs are effective but give side effects for the whole body that can get serious if the treatment is not adjusted accurately. Proneness for infections caused by depression of the immune system is one side effect of these drugs.
In the latest years one has begun using so-called biological drugs for treatment of psoriasis, for example remicade. These drugs consist of antibodies or signal substances that can modify specific internal processes in the tissues, for example the actions of the immune system. The signal substances used to control psoriasis reduce attacks from the immune system on the skin. They also reduce attacks on the joints and are therefore also effective against arthritis related to psoriasis.
These drugs are expensive and one knows little about side effects yet, but they increase proneness to infections. Therefore they are only used by severe psoriasis that does not respond to other treatment.
Knut Holt is an Internet marketer and author with a focus on health items and science. Please see his web-site to find more information and presentation of natural products to treat psoriasis, eczema and similar conditions.