Skin is the ultimate health protection barrier. Psoriasis usually causes embarrassment, workplace discrimination and sitgma, expense and time consuming symptomatic treatments.
The disorder results from rapid growth of skin cells, in about four days, instead of the usual 28 days, causing skin to thicken and normally shed skin cells to increase massively. The condition could flare up and recede at intervals.
Psoriatic arthritis could affect skin and joints, causing initially finger nails or toe nails to lift, pit, form ridges or yellow-orange patches.
The condition is linked to chronic inflammation like Crohn’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, and depression.
There are five types of psoriasis, in order of commonality;
• Plaque psoriasis, causing red, raised, inflamed patches covered with a silvery white scale anywhere on the body, often on arms, knees, lower back, scalp.
• Guttate psoriasis, causing small red spots, usually on body, arms and legs. Conditions like strep throat could be a trigger.
• Inverse psoriasis, causing smooth, shiny red patches in skin folds.
• Pustular psoriasis, causing red patches with tiny blisters on hands and feet.
• Erythrodermic psoriasis, causing burnlike lesions that are potentially fatal, rapid heart rate and temperature fluctuations.
Several genetic and chemical exposure triggers underlie psoriasis. Symptoms include intense itching, pain, cracked or bleeding skin, or dandruff like flakes. Scratching could make the condition worse.
Psoriasis does not result from poor personal hygiene or identified chemical exposures. About 12% of any population is prone to develop psoriasis. White people, and family members of other sufferers, are 50% more likely than Africans to develop psoriasis.
Researchers have found that T cells, a type of white blood cell active in immune systems, overreact to some exposures, like emotional stress, skin injury, upper respiratory infections, certain medicinal ingredients like lithium, malaria drugs, beta blockers used to control high blood pressure, higher doses of cortico steroids, smoking, nicotine patches, and similar irritants.
Psoriasis treatment could include;
• Mild exposure to sunlight, ultraviolet (UVB) light.
• Dietary treatment could include fish oil, reduction of sugar, coffee, wheat, bran, milk, cheese, depending on individual reactions.
• Keep skin moist by regular short showers in warm water, not hot, using fragrance free moisturising soap.
• Dry by patting, not rubbing.
• Apply moisturising lotion by day, and cream or ointment at night.
• Do not scratch skin.
• Apply a cold compress, a menthol-based ointment, or topical steroid in thin layers, or soak in an oatmeal bath.
• Wear smooth, light clothing that allows some air exchange, like pure cotton.
• Avoid overheating in hot work or home conditions.
• Check to which treatments the skin responds.
• Biologic therapies that act on T cells or cytokines, immune system cells involved in inflammation.
Diagnosis of psoriasis could be confused with chemical burn, viral infection, or even arthritis, gout, or tissue rupture. Some sufferers feel intolerable swelling and arthritic pain in a toe, ankle, finger, hand, wrist, elbow, knee, shoulder or hip. Sores could remain initially hidden on the scalp under hair.
Sources; Seattle Times. New England Journal of Medicine. Psoriasis Aid.
PHOTO; Psoriasis symptom on a hand. Symptoms could appear anywhere on the body, including scalp or nails.