Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes scale-like red, itchy patches that is often painful and extremely uncomfortable. Like most diseases, the effects that it can have on people vary in severity. While it’s a very straight-forward definition, there are a lot of underlying facts about psoriasis that you might not have known.
What Is Psoriasis and What Causes It?
An extensive amount of research has been done throughout the years to determine what psoriasis is and what the causes are. It’s been long wondered if psoriasis is caused by a fault in the immune system. So, is psoriasis an autoimmune disease? Yes.
The immune system is responsible for fighting off foreign bacteria in the body. It is also responsible for sending messages to the body to produce certain anti-bodies. In a normal situation, skin cells grow and flake away every 4 weeks or so. In psoriasis of the skin cases, the immune system can send faulty messages for the body to produce more skin cells. The skin cells produce rapidly and come to the surface of the skin in a matter of days.
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown. Finding that it is an autoimmune disorder is helpful in the diagnosis, however, many autoimmune disorders themselves remain a mystery to doctors and researchers.
How do you get psoriasis? Is psoriasis hereditary?
In many cases of psoriasis, it has been found that it runs in families, so it is a hereditary disease. Environmental factors can also be involved, as they’re believed to contribute a lot to autoimmune diseases.
While it does run in families, you can’t transmit psoriasis to other people – that is, it’s not contagious. Skin to skin contact will not cause you to give or get psoriasis to or from someone else.
What are the symptoms psoriasis? Is psoriasis itchy?
The symptoms of psoriasis will vary in nature and severity from person to person. Generally, it will produce dry skin patches covering red inflamed areas. The skin patches can be small, local rashes or the patches can combine together and cover large areas of the body. The back, neck, arms, and legs, are the most common areas that you can see psoriasis.
Because psoriasis causes the skin to be inflamed, and then more dry skin to grow on top, it can be itchy. Others report that it’s quite painful as well.
In some cases, people have reported that their joints are sore, swollen, and tender. This is called psoriatic arthritis.
Symptoms can come and go and range from mild to severe from day to day. Since the immune system is working in over-drive, the condition of the disease is often changing. Excessively cold or hot weather, rain, or high allergen seasons can cause symptoms to flare up too.
How can psoriasis be treated?
Doctors can diagnose psoriasis just by taking a look at the areas of your skin or scalp that are affected. Treatment of psoriasis begins with skincare. It’s best to keep the skin moisturized and clean. Your doctor may also prescribe certain shampoos if the disease affects your scalp, or medications.
Because every case of psoriasis is different, you may have a difficult time treating the disease. It’s common to have to try several different combinations of treatment methods before you find the one that works best for you. Since it is a chronic or long-term disease, you may have to treat your psoriasis throughout your lifetime and the treatment methods efficacy may change over time as well.
Are allergies and psoriasis the same thing?
Because they have many of the same symptoms, red itchy skin primarily, it’s easy to mistake allergies for psoriasis and vice versa. However similar, they are two different things that do not trigger the other.
Allergies are a result of your immune system having a reaction to something that you are sensitive to.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. Diseases and disorders of the autoimmune system mean that your body unknowingly attacks its own healthy blood cells.
Since both allergies and psoriasis are both triggered by similar factors (environment, foods, etc.), you might experience flare ups of both allergies and psoriasis at the same time. Each might have a different treatment option that will work for you.
Can you prevent psoriasis flare ups?
You might feel restless when you have unexpected flare ups of psoriasis. It’s true that your immune system is doing the work to cause the itching and burning but there are some things that you can avoid in your daily life that can prevent sudden, painful flare ups of psoriasis..
Smoking: We all know that smoking is bad for our health. Inhaling all of the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke can greatly affect the immune system, thereby triggering a flare up.
Injuries to your skin: Remember, the immune system is sending messages to the body to make more skin, and then it overproduces. So, when you get a skin injury that breaks or tears your skin, the body is going to send the message that you need more – and the cycle of overproduction starts. This can occur even with small skin tears, like those you get when you are trimming your nails, so use extreme caution.
Medications: When you are diagnosed with psoriasis, make sure you tell your doctor which medications you are on. Or, if during the course of your treatment of psoriasis, if you are prescribed a new medication, be sure to tell the doctor that you have psoriasis. Many medicines including anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) have been known to make psoriasis symptoms worsen. There are usually medication alternatives that you can take.
Stress: Stress and anxiety are sometimes unavoidable; however, note that they can cause your symptoms to get worse.
Alcohol: Alcohol puts stress on the body and can also cause psoriasis to flare up.
Infections: If you have an infection in your body, your immune system will already be working overtime to fight that infection, so it could also cause your body to produce more skin hence, worsening the symptoms.
Overexposure to sunlight: While a little bit of time out in the sun can help people with psoriasis, prolonged or excessive sunlight exposure can damage the skin and make symptoms worse.
Excessive cold: Cold weather or climates can irritate the skin and cause more discomfort.
Some of these things are completely unavoidable. Taking special care to cut back or be mindful of them can bring some relief from your symptoms, or at least give you some indicators on what may be making your psoriasis worse at times
Can my diet affect my psoriasis?
Many doctors and researchers have looked into the possibility that foods can contribute to psoriasis outbreaks. There haven’t been any positive findings on this; however, there are people who believe that eating a “Psoriasis Diet” can help with symptoms.
There are different approaches to the psoriasis diet, but the one that seems to have the most promise of soon becoming a research confirmed help is an anti-inflammatory diet. Some foods that have been known to cause inflammation are red meats with excessive fat, dairy, processed foods, and refined sugars.
There are also some foods that have been shown to reduce inflammation. Some of those include: Freshwater fish that are high in Omega-3’s, Olive Oil, Pumpkin Seeds, and colorful vegetables like carrots, squash, spinach, strawberries and figs.
While again, nothing has been scientifically proven to prevent psoriasis symptoms, being on a healthy diet is something you should focus on to make sure that your body is in prime condition.
Psoriasis is a very uncomfortable and often unsightly condition to have. It can be embarrassing and painful at the same time. There isn’t a cure for it yet, but while researchers are on the hunt, you can manage and treat your psoriasis so that it doesn’t take over your life. The most important things are to keep your skin moisturized with lotions and creams. You don’t have to have a prescription for some psoriasis creams and ointments, so you can get them right from the drug store. If you haven’t seen your doctor and you think that you have psoriasis, be sure to consult them right away, especially if your symptoms are becoming troublesome. While the tips and treatments here might be very helpful, you may need a stronger medication or cream that is only available by prescription to help.
Also, it might be very tempting to use coverup or makeups to cover unsightly psoriasis skin. This is an okay, short-term solution, however, you don’t want to make a habit of this as a treatment method. These types of makeups can cause more inflammation and actually irritate your skin. This is just going to be more painful for you in the long run. It’s understandable that if you have skin inflammation from psoriasis somewhere noticeable, you may want to cover it up once in a while, but again, don’t make it something you do regularly.
Many people have psoriasis, but that doesn’t mean that you have to suffer! Lifelong management and treatment is definitely possible.