What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a dermatological disorder affecting the skin. Sufferers develop patches of red, scaly skin over different parts of the body. It is most commonly found on the scalp, elbows, knees and lower back. Joints can also be affected in a condition called psoriatic arthritis which affects about 5% of those with psoriasis. Chronic joint pain is usually the consequence of this condition.

What are the symptoms of psoriasis?

  • Dry, scaly, itchy skin
  • Raised patches that when rubbed show bleeding pin points
  • Itching or painful skin
  • Pitted, cracked, crumbly or loose nails

What causes psoriasis?

The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown. However, it is known that psoriasis is a defect in the body’s ability to regulate skin growth. In the area’s where signs of psoriasis are visible, the skin grows at an accelerated rate. In addition to growing, in these areas, the skin cells are not shed but instead are retained on the skin creating raised lesions. This describes a problem in skin production and not an infection, therefore is not contagious. Psoriasis does however, have a genetic component. If one of your parents has psoriasis, you are more likely to develop the condition.

How common is psoriasis?

In Canada, 2-3% of the population has psoriasis, which means roughly ONE million people are living with this disease.

When do people develop psoriasis?

Psoriasis can begin at any age—the average age for diagnosis is 28.

Can Psoriasis be cured?

Despite the fact that there is no cure for psoriasis, many therapies can put symptoms of psoriasis into remission for months to years. Triggers, can cause psoriasis to return and require additional treatment.

What can trigger psoriasis to appear?

  • Infections (common cold etc.)
  • Skin injury or trauma
  • Alcohol
  • Certain medications
  • Diet. Individual foods that trigger psoriasis vary from person to person.
  • Climate. A little bit of sun can help improve symptoms, however overexposure to the sun in a hot humid environment can make things worse. Additionally, dry winter climates can worsen psoriasis.
  • Changes in hormones (puberty, menopause etc.) Surprisingly, pregnancy can cause symptoms of psoriasis to decrease or disappear!
  • Stress, while not a trigger can cause a worsening of already existing lesions.

How is psoriasis treated?

There are many different types of treatments for psoriasis depending on the severity and spread of disease. The treatments must be determined on an individual basis by the physician in collaboration with the patient.

Some common therapies for mild to moderate psoriasis include:

  • Topical Coal Tar—one of the oldest therapies for psoriasis. While it is effective, Coal Tar has a strong odor and can stain clothing.
  • Topical Steroid Creams—these creams are applied daily for 2-3 weeks at a time, followed by remission or a break from the cream.
  • Derivatives of Vitamin D in a topical cream
  • Derivatives of Vitamin A in a topical cream
  • Sunlight therapy

For individuals with widespread disease resistant to therapies listed above, oral medications can be used. The medications used orally are methotrexate, cyclosporine and Vitamin A derivatives. Due to the side effects of these medications they are reserved for resistant or more severe cases of psoriasis.

In times of remission, fragrance and dye free moisturizers can be used to keep skin from becoming too dry.

If you think you may have psoriasis, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. If you have any questions about the treatment of your psoriasis speak with your pharmacist today!

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