Psoriasis is a common, chronic skin condition that occurs after a rapid buildup of skin cells. Red, raised, dry and cracked scaly patches form on the skin as a result. At times, it can also affect your fingernails, causing yellowing and small depressions. Psoriasis can range from mild to severe, and usually causes itching and burning in the affected areas. While there is currently no cure, Dr. Shondra Smith offers a variety of treatments that are effective in relieving psoriasis symptoms.
If you suffer from psoriasis in Lake Charles LA and surrounding areas, contact us today to schedule an appointment.
What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a common skin condition that causes the formation of scales and red patches on the skin. When a person has this skin condition, the life cycle of their skin cells accelerates. This causes cells to buildup on the skin surface before they can be shed. This creates scales and red patches that can be itchy and painful. There are various types of psoriasis including plaque (most common), scalp, palmar-plantar (hands and feet), nail, guttate and erythrodermic (full body flare that often leads to hospitalization).
What Causes Psoriasis?
The causes of psoriasis are not fully understood, although it is thought to be a problem with the person’s immune system. Psoriasis is also a disease that is passed on genetically. This problem revolves around the T cells and white blood cells (neutrophils). Instead of attacking intruding viruses and bacteria, which is the normal job of the T cells, in psoriasis, the T cells attack healthy skin cells by mistake. This causes inflammation.
As the T cells become overactive they trigger increased production of healthy skin cells, additional T cells, and other white blood cells, particularly neutrophils. These cells also travel into the skin causing inflammation and sometimes creating pustular lesions. Psoriasis-affected areas become warm and red, due to dilated blood vessels.
The inflammation triggers more skin cells to be produced and they move to the outermost layer of the skin too quickly-—a process that should take weeks occurs in only days. These cells build up on the skin surface in thick, scaly patches.
What Are The Symptoms Of Psoriasis?
There are different types of psoriasis. Most forms go through cycles of flare-ups followed by calm times or even remission. Red, scaly patches can be as small as just a few spots or they can become major eruptions that cover large areas of the body. Signs and symptoms can vary, but these are some of the most common symptoms:
How Is Psoriasis Treated?
There is no cure for psoriasis. With treatment, Dr. Smith usually seeks to slow the growth of the patient’s skin cells, and to manage the symptoms during flare-ups.
She starts treatments with the mildest options, progressing as needed until she finds the most effective option for slowing the patient’s cell turnover.
For patients with mild to moderate psoriasis, the use of creams and ointments may be all that is necessary. Here are some of the options we use:
Topical Corticosteroids — These drugs are the first choice for treating psoriasis. They reduce inflammation and relieve itching, and they can be combined with other treatments. Long-term use can cause the skin to thin, however, so it’s best to use these as a short-term treatment during flare-ups.
Vitamin D Analogues — These synthetic forms of vitamin D slow the growth of the patient’s skin cells.
Anthralin — This drug helps slow skin cell growth and it can remove scales and make the skin smoother.
Topical Retinoids — These vitamin A-based medications decrease inflammation, but they can also irritate the skin and make the skin light sensitive.
Calcineurin Inhibitors — These reduce inflammation and plaque build-up, but are not good for long-term use.
Salicylic Acid — Commonly used in chemical peels, salicylic acid promotes sloughing of dead skin cells and reduces scaling.
Coal Tar — Coal tar reduces scaling, itching, and inflammation, but it is messy, stains clothing and bedding, and has a strong odor.
Natural sunlight and artificial ultraviolet light can be effective with psoriasis.
Sunlight — Exposure to UV light in natural sunlight or from artificial sources slows skin cell turnover and reduces scaling and inflammation. Too much exposure, however, can worsen symptoms.
UVB light — This is the UV light that doesn’t cause sunburns, but instead penetrates into the dermis layer of the skin. Controlled broadband and narrowband UVB exposure can be effective with psoriasis.
Psoralen plus UVA — This is an aggressive treatment that can cause the same problems as long-term sun exposure, but it is effective for more severe cases of psoriasis. It involves taking psoralen, a light-sensitizing medication, prior to exposure to UVA light. The psoralen makes the skin more responsive to the UVA light.
Excimer laser — This is a controlled beam of UVB light that is directed onto only the affected skin without harming the unaffected skin.
Oral And Injected Medications
The use of prescription oral or injected medications is known as systemic treatment. These drugs have side effects, so they are used with caution and usually frequent monitoring of bloodwork.
Retinoids — This vitamin A-based drug can be used with severe psoriasis, but it has side effects such as hair loss
Methotrexate — This drug decreases production of skin cells and suppresses inflammation. In can slow the progression of psoriatric arthritis in some people.
Cyclosporine — Cyclosporine suppresses the immune system, but it has serious side effects and can only be taken short-term.
Injected immune system drugs (often referred to as biologics)— A variety of drugs are approved for treatment of moderate to severe psoriasis that isn’t responding to other treatments.
Patients can help relieve symptoms by keeping their skin clean and moisturized. It is also good to cover the affected areas while sleeping, and to avoid triggers like stress, smoking and alcohol. By adhering to Dr. Smith’s prescribed treatment plan and following the recommended home remedies, effective relief is possible.