Understanding Psoriasis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

about psoriasis

As someone with psoriasis, it’s easy to be tempted into trying everything naturally or conventional psoriasis treatment you hear about. Unfortunately, like most things in life, not all treatments for psoriasis are created equal. From over-the-counter creams to prescription medications, natural home remedies and alternative therapies, it can be difficult to determine which treatments are actually going to give you the relief you’re looking for. In this article, you’ll learn all about psoriasis so you can find the most effective ways to start healing your skin and soothing your symptoms.

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a fairly common chronic skin disease that produces itchy, scaly patches of skin that typically occur on the elbows, knees, back and scalp. The appearance of psoriasis can vary widely from person to person, ranging from dandruff-like patches to red spots and even major outbreaks on the skin. It can range in color – from red and pink to various shades of purple, and can cause some pretty uncomfortable symptoms, such as burning, itching, soreness and irritability.

This skin condition tends to come in waves, causing a flare-up of symptoms for weeks or months at a time before subsiding for a while. These flare-ups can be triggered by a variety of things, including the weather, infections, heavy alcohol consumption and medications (more on that in just a moment).

Different Types of Psoriasis

As you can tell from the description above, psoriasis isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of skin condition. Along with the wide variety of symptoms it can produce, there are many different types of psoriasis that someone can develop. Understanding the different types can help you determine the specific variety you may be dealing with, which in turn, allows you to find the best form of treatment.

The different types of psoriasis and the typical signs and symptoms of each are as follows:

Plaque Psoriasis

This is the most common type of psoriasis with 80% to 90% of all people with psoriasis having this specific kind. It causes itchy, dry raised skin patches, also known as plaques, that are covered with scales. This form of psoriasis typically appears on the knees, elbows, lower back and scalp and can vary in color depending on the individual’s skin tone.

Nail Psoriasis

Just as the name suggests, this is a form of psoriasis that occurs in fingernails and toenails and is known to cause abnormal skin growth and discoloration. The affected nails may loosen and even separate from the nail bed over time. Severe cases of nail psoriasis can cause the nail to crumble.

Inverse Psoriasis

Psoriasis that affects the skin folds around the groin, breasts and buttocks is referred to as inverse psoriasis. It produces smooth patches of inflamed skin (without scales) that typically worsen with sweating and friction. Injuries to the skin, such as cuts, scrapes and surgery, as well as emotional stress, streptococcal infections and fungal infections are all known triggers.

Guttate Psoriasis

This form of psoriasis typically affects children and young adults, and is usually caused by a bacterial infection, such as strep throat. It produces small scaling spots in the shape of a teardrop, which tend to appear on the arms, legs, chest, abdomen, pelvis and back.

Pustular Psoriasis

This is a rather rare type of psoriasis that causes defined fluid-filled blisters that can appear in widespread patches on the skin or in smaller areas on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet. Pustular psoriasis is often caused by another disease or condition but it can sometimes be caused by a sudden withdrawal of steroids, skin infections and an electrolytes imbalance.

Erythrodermic Psoriasis

This type of psoriasis is the least common and the most severe. It can be both short-lived or long-term (acute or chronic) and often produces a shedding rash that covers the entire body. This rash is usually severely itchy and/or burns severely. 

What Triggers Psoriasis Outbreaks?

Psoriasis is caused by an over-reactive immune system that causes the skin to become inflamed. So, instead of your immune system fighting off foreign dangers, such as bacteria, it mistakes healthy cells as being dangerous and kills them off instead.

As for the what-seems-like-random outbreaks or flare-ups of psoriasis, these are usually triggered by having contact with something that causes a reaction. These triggers can be different from person to person but some of the most common ones are:

  • Contact with an allergen or irritant
  • An infection
  • Emotional stress
  • Skin injuries such as cuts, scrapes or surgery
  • Medications, such as beta-blockers and lithium
  • Weather
  • Changes in body temperature

Potential Complications of Untreated Psoriasis

Leaving psoriasis untreated can lead to a variety of possible complications that range from pain and discomfort to more severe health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and even heart disease. Now, that’s not to say that you will develop additional symptoms or health concerns if you don’t treat your psoriasis, but there are some potential risks to be aware of, including:

  • Psoriatic arthritis which includes pain, swelling and stiffness in and around the joints
  • Eye conditions such as conjunctivitis, uveitis and blepharitis
  • Skin changes such as hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation
  • Other autoimmune diseases such as sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Mental health concerns including depression, low self-esteem and anxiety

Effective Treatments for Psoriasis

There are a variety of treatment options available to you – from conventional medication to ancient medicine, natural remedies and alternative therapies. The best treatment for you is going to be highly dependent on the type of psoriasis you have. Speaking with a dermatologist can help you determine the type of psoriasis you are dealing with. They can also develop an action plan for managing your psoriasis based on the severity of your symptoms, the location of your symptoms, your age, preferences and overall health and wellness.

However, if you just can’t wait for your next appointment or want to start treating your psoriasis naturally at home, here is some information to get you started.

Common Treatments

Although there is no known cure for psoriasis, a combination of some of the most common treatment methods can be enough to improve your symptoms and provide some relief. Many can be found over-the-counter, with some requiring a prescription, but they are the most common course of action for treating psoriasis:

  • Medication to delay skin cell production
  • Medicated lotions, shampoos and other cosmetics
  • Vitamin D3 ointments
  • Retinoid creams
  • Moisturizers

If your psoriasis is being rather difficult and you aren’t seeing improvement after using the common treatments mentioned above, your healthcare provider may recommend some less-common treatment options, such as:

  • Light therapy (slows down skin cell production and decreases skin inflammation)
  • Immune therapy medication (to block your immune system)
  • Methotrexate medication
  • PUVA (medication combined with ultraviolet light)
  • Cyclosporine

Additional Treatment Options

If you’re looking to go a more natural route for treating your psoriasis, there’s certainly no shortage of effective options there either. Many of these treatments can even be done right from the comfort of your own home.

Natural Remedies

  • Tea tree oil can help relieve psoriasis on your scalp. You can purchase specifically formulated shampoos or add a couple of drops to your preferred brand.
  • Olive oil can also be applied to the scalp to help loosen skin flakes.
  • Apple cider vinegar can be used to relieve an itchy scalp due to psoriasis.
  • Turmeric added to your meals or used as a supplement can help reduce inflammation.
  • Use a humidifier to help keep your skin moisturized.
  • Bath in sea salt, Epsom salt or oatmeal to alleviate itching and burning.
  • Apply aloe vera plant extract to your skin to alleviate scaling, itching and inflammation.

Lifestyle Changes

Making some simple changes to your lifestyle, whether it’s prioritizing your sleep or making some modifications to your diet, can improve your psoriasis, relieve your symptoms and boost your overall health and wellness. Below are some simple suggestions that can help you develop healthier habits:

  • Clean diet: A Mediterranean diet is said to be the healthiest way to eat but simply consuming more fruits and vegetables and few sugar, gluten, carbs and processed foods can reduce your exposure to possible triggers. Increasing your omega-3 fatty acids can also help decrease inflammation.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water each day (8 cups) is crucial for keeping your body functioning properly and your skin moisturized.
  • Stress management: Practicing some stress management techniques, such as yoga and meditation or even making a daily to-do list to organize your tasks can help reduce stress – a known trigger of psoriasis.
  • Enhance your sleep: Prioritizing your sleep so you get at least 8 hours of sound rest at night is key for maintaining overall general wellness. Develop a sleep-wake cycle that you can commit to each day (yes, even on the weekends) and implement some self-care before going to bed to help enhance your sleep.
  • Take some fish oil: Whether it’s in supplement form or you’re eating more salmon, tuna and other fatty fishes, fish oil can help reduce inflammation and boost your immunity.
  • Practice yoga: Exercise is important for general health and wellness, and when it comes to treating psoriasis, practising yoga has shown to have promising results.
  • Enhance your hygiene: Limiting your showers to 10 minutes or less, using a moisturizing fragrance-free soap and applying moisturizer following your shower can help prevent the worsening of your symptoms.
  • Get daily sunlight: Exposure to the sun’s UV rays can help slow down the growth of affected skin cells to help improve the appearance of your skin. If you can’t get outdoors or the sun isn’t shining, use a sunlamp.

Psoriasis may not have a cure but there are many incredible treatment options that can help reduce your symptoms and provide you with relief, so you can get back to looking and feeling good in your own skin.

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