Home » Blog » Psoriasis: Causes, Effects, Treatments, and Prevention

Psoriasis: Causes, Effects, Treatments, and Prevention

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Characterised by the rapid buildup of skin cells, it leads to scaling and red patches that can be both uncomfortable and unsightly. In this blog post, we will explore the causes of psoriasis, its effects on the skin, treatment options, and the best preventative measures to manage this condition.

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that accelerates the life cycle of skin cells. This rapid cell turnover results in a buildup of cells on the skin’s surface, forming scales and red patches that can be itchy and sometimes painful. Psoriasis is a long-term (chronic) disease with no cure, but various treatments can help manage the symptoms.

What Causes Psoriasis?

The exact cause of psoriasis is not fully understood, but it involves a combination of genetic and environmental factors:

  • Genetics: Psoriasis often runs in families, indicating a hereditary component. Certain genes have been linked to the development of psoriasis.
  • Immune System: Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, meaning the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells, speeding up the production cycle of skin cells.
  • Environmental Triggers: Common triggers include infections (such as strep throat), skin injuries (cuts, scrapes, or sunburns), stress, smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and certain medications (like lithium, beta-blockers, and antimalarial drugs).

What Does Psoriasis Do to the Skin?

Psoriasis manifests in various forms, but the most common type is plaque psoriasis. Here’s how it affects the skin:

  • Red Patches: Inflamed, red areas of skin are a hallmark of psoriasis. These patches are often covered with silvery-white scales.
  • Scales: The rapid turnover of skin cells leads to a buildup of dead skin cells on the surface, forming thick, silvery scales.
  • Dry and Cracked Skin: Psoriatic skin can become dry and cracked, sometimes to the point of bleeding.
  • Itchiness and Pain: Psoriasis can cause intense itching and burning sensations, as well as soreness.
  • Thickened Nails: Psoriasis can affect the nails, causing them to become thickened, ridged, and discoloured.
  • Joint Problems: In some cases, psoriasis is associated with psoriatic arthritis, which causes joint pain and swelling.

How to Treat Psoriasis?

While there is no cure for psoriasis, various treatments can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life:

  • Topical Treatments: These include corticosteroids, vitamin D analogues, topical retinoids, calcineurin inhibitors, and salicylic acid to reduce inflammation and skin cell turnover.
  • Phototherapy: Controlled exposure to ultraviolet light can slow down the rapid growth of skin cells. Options include UVB phototherapy, narrowband UVB therapy, and PUVA (a combination of UVA light and the drug psoralen).
  • Systemic Medications: For more severe cases, oral or injected medications like methotrexate, cyclosporine, and biologics (which target specific parts of the immune system) may be prescribed.
  • Moisturisers: Regular use of moisturisers can help keep the skin hydrated and reduce dryness and scaling.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Managing stress, maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding known triggers, and quitting smoking and alcohol can help manage psoriasis symptoms.

Best Preventative Measures

Preventing psoriasis flare-ups involves a combination of lifestyle changes and proactive skincare:

  • Manage Stress: Stress can trigger or exacerbate psoriasis, so incorporating stress-reducing practices like meditation, yoga, and deep-breathing exercises can be beneficial.
  • Healthy Diet: A balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods (like fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids) can help reduce inflammation.
  • Avoid Triggers: Identifying and avoiding personal triggers, such as certain foods, medications, and environmental factors, can help prevent flare-ups.
  • Regular Skincare Routine: Use gentle skincare products and keep the skin moisturised to prevent dryness and irritation.
  • Protect Your Skin: Avoid skin injuries by being cautious with activities that can cause cuts, scrapes, or sunburns. Use sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin from UV damage.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated from the inside out.

Psoriasis is a complex and often challenging condition, but with the right knowledge and management strategies, it can be effectively controlled. Understanding the causes, effects, treatments, and preventative measures can empower those affected to take proactive steps towards healthier skin and a better quality of life. If you suspect you have psoriasis, consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment plan.