Psoriasis is the most common autoimmune disease in the U.S., affecting as many as 7.5 million Americans. It occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells, resulting in painful red, scaly patches on the body that bleed and itch. It frequently occurs with a range of other health concerns including diabetes, hypertension, heart attack and depression.
Psoriasis is a chronic, noncontagious, multisystem, inflammatory disorder that can affect the skin, scalp, nails, and occasionally the joints. It is characterized by raised, inflamed, red lesions covered by a silvery white scale. It is typically found on the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back.
Stress, injury to the skin, medications, and infections can all precede the onset of the condition or make it worse.
Although the condition is usually benign, it is a lifelong illness with remissions and exacerbations and is sometimes refractory to treatment.
A systematic review of 90 studies confirmed that patients with psoriasis had a higher risk of ischemic heart disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease but also a greater prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, compared with controls. Those with more severe symptoms, such as those requiring oral medications, had even higher risks.
Diet and Exercise: A high BMI (25 or higher) is associated with an increased incidence of psoriatic outbreaks, so this is another important reason to eat nutritiously, exercise, and maintain a healthy body weight. Alcohol and smoking can also make the condition worse, so it is important to reduce or eliminate these, especially during flares.
Stress plays a major role in the occurrence of psoriatic outbreaks, so it is especially important for those with psoriasis to keep stress it in check. Meditation, yoga, and acupuncture are all effective stress relievers.
Sunlight can be an effective treatment for the condition, because it contains ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which have been shown to suppress inflammation in the skin. To minimize harmful UV exposure, it is best to receive phototherapy (light) treatments in the safety of a doctor’s office.
Management of psoriasis may involve medications, light therapy, stress reduction, and various adjuncts such as sunshine, moisturizers, and salicylic acid. Topical treatments include moisturizers, steroid creams, Vitamin D creams, and salicylic acid.