Psoriasis Awareness Month: Get To Know More About This Common Skin Disorder
A specialist explains a few facts and expels a few myths about the immune-mediated disease that causes red and crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales.
For Psoriasis Awareness Month Dr Dhanya Rajkumar has shared a lowdown about the skin disease that affects approximately 125 million individuals across the globe, according to the International Association of Psoriasis Federations. The Specialist Dermatologist at Medcare Hospital Sharjah helps us understand what psoriasis is, the dos and don’ts and how to correctly treat it.
Psoriasis is a common, chronic, inflammatory and proliferative condition of the skin, associated with systemic manifestations in many organ systems. Rajkumar describes psoriasis as a noncommunicable, disfiguring and disabling disease, which can have a serious negative impact on the quality of life of those living with it.
The most common characteristic of the skin rash is red, scaly, sharply demarcated lesions that are seen particularly over the extensor surfaces and scalp. Psoriasis can also affect the nails and joints.
The Recommended Course Of Action
There are several dos and don'ts to follow when it comes to psoriasis. Rajkumar believes special consideration should be given to lifestyle factors and behaviours that contribute to the overall health and treatment responsiveness, including weight management and quitting smoking. The specialist also recommends using thick, non-fragranced moisturisers on a daily basis, together with baths that can be infused with colloidal oatmeal, Epsom salts or coal tar. These can help to relieve inflammation, irritation, dryness and redness.
While the reasons are yet to be clarified, the use of UV light is said to improve the remission of psoriasis lesions. And although a majority of individuals avoid sunbathing in an attempt to decrease the risk of developing skin cancer, those who suffer from psoriasis may benefit from it. However, Rajkumar advises only exposing the regions of the body affected by psoriasis. To avoid sunburn, cover the unaffected skin with clothing or make use of a 30 SPF sunscreen and limit your sun exposure to 15 minutes.
Additionally, Rajkumar recommends reaching out to family members, friends and seeking medical advice as psoriasis is not simply a painful physical condition. It can be emotionally draining, with depression, dissatisfaction and loneliness commonly experienced by those who have the disease. The best treatment for the mental health concerns listed is to consult a dermatologist, who would be able to better explain the disease and advise on the best possible treatment, which in turn could reduce the mental health impact that it can have.
The Things To Avoid
What causes psoriasis is unclear, however, Rajkumar suggests there are several lifestyle factors to consider to help reduce its appearance and stop it spreading. Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with moderate to severe psoriasis and should therefore be avoided, while smoking also causes an increased risk of developing psoriasis.
“Any infection that affects the immune system can trigger a certain type of psoriasis, which is why there can often be a flare up following an ear infection, bronchitis, tonsillitis, or even respiratory infection,” Rajkumar says. And that’s why these kinds of infections should be treated immediately.
The dermatologist also explains increased levels of depression, anxiety and worry often result in flare ups of the disease, leading to moderate or sometimes even severe psoriasis. Plus, although it is suggested sunlight is beneficial to psoriasis patients, in some cases the disease may be provoked by it. So when a person experiences an aggravated case of psoriasis following sun exposure, future minimised exposure is advised.
The Best Ways To Treat Psoriasis
While treating psoriasis, there are various modalities to consider, depending on the type and severity of the disease. According to Rajkumar, mild plaque psoriasis without psoriatic arthritis can be treated with various topical treatments such as coal tar, potent topical corticosteroids and vitamin D analogues, followed by phototherapy as a second line of treatment.
To remedy moderate to severe plaque psoriasis treatment, Rajkumar reveals phototherapy is the first line of treatment, followed by oral medications such as immunosuppressants and apremilast. In case patients do not respond to the above treatment, the next step is biologicals, which are really promising for individuals with moderate to severe psoriasis. They represent a significant step forward in the development of psoriasis medications that will improve patients’ quality of life.