Written by: Susan L. Sullivan, MD
If you are one of the 7.55 million persons in the US (3% of the US population) living with psoriasis, you know first-hand that this chronic skin condition can be more than a nuisance. Psoriasis is a life-long condition thought to result from a combination of genetic and acquired disruptions to the immune system. While there is no cure, there are effective ways to manage psoriasis.
August is Psoriasis Awareness Month — the perfect time to learn more about psoriasis and measures you can take to help control the condition.
Types and Signs of Psoriasis
Psoriasis can wax and wane for some people, meaning there are times when symptoms flare, and other times when the condition is less severe or even in remission. For others, it is a constant battle. There are several types of psoriasis, and sometimes the same patient has more than one type.
Plaque psoriasis is the most common. The patient has areas of sharply demarcated red scaly plaques. Common areas are elbows, knees, and buttocks, but plaques can occur anywhere.
Guttate psoriasis is many widespread small plaques. This type is sometimes triggered by a strep infection.
Scalp psoriasis is also common and sometimes the only manifestation of the condition. The patient has fine scaling or shiny plaques most commonly on the back of the scalp and in front of and behind the ears.
Nail psoriasis can appear as fine pits or as yellowed thickened nails that can resemble fungal nails.
Inverse psoriasis can present as moist thin red plaques in skin folds such as under the breasts, creases of the abdomen and thighs, and under the arms.
Erythrodermic psoriasis is more serious, involving most or all of the skin surface, and sometimes associated with dehydration and anemia.
Pustular psoriasis causes plaques with pimples. It can be localized to palms and soles, or widespread.
Conditions that May Be Associated with Psoriasis
Psoriatic arthritis: Symptoms include stiffness, soreness, and swelling usually worse in the morning or after inactivity. Commonly affected areas are the hands and back.
Metabolic syndrome: Patients with significant psoriasis have an increased risk of heart disease, lipid abnormalities, and type 2 diabetes. It is important to be aware of this so that you can take preventative measures and be sure to be followed closely by your primary care physician.
Ways to Help Manage Psoriasis
Reduce Your Stress
Stress can trigger psoriasis flares. Simple measures like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises may help with stress control.
Protect Your Skin from injury
Scrapes, cuts, sunburns, bug bites, and tattoos may trigger psoriasis in the areas of skin injury. Try to minimize trauma to your skin.
Eat a Healthy Diet and Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Although there is no miracle diet to cure psoriasis, a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables and which is low in saturated fats seems to help psoriasis, as it does your overall health. Likewise, excessive weight tends to worsen psoriasis and increase the risk of associated general health problems.
Smoking is known to increase the severity of psoriasis. It also worsens cardiovascular disease, which is a known comorbidity of psoriasis.
Minimize Alcohol Intake
Alcohol can trigger the onset of psoriasis and worsen the disease in those who already have it.
Be Aware that Certain Medications May Trigger Psoriasis
Examples include antimalarials like hydroxychloroquine, beta-blockers, lithium, interferons, topical imiquimod, and terbinafine.
Get Help for Your Psoriasis at Cascade Eye & Skin Centers
Although you can take measures on your own to manage psoriasis, the condition usually requires medical treatment. There is a wide range of prescribed treatments that can help clear your condition. Schedule with one of our dermatologists to find the right treatment for your case.