What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition affecting the regeneration of cells. Psoriasis causes cells to build up at a rapid rate on the surface of the skin. This build up of skin forms scales and red patches. As a result, it can become painful, itchy and bothersome to the patient.
Since it is a chronic condition that can have flare-ups, it is best to treat the condition by stopping the skin cells from growing at a rapid rate.
Who is impacted?
Unfortunately, anyone can develop psoriasis, but certain risk factors may increase your risk, such as:
- Family history
- Viral and bacterial infections
How is it Psoriasis diagnosed?
Psoriasis diagnosis is based off of a physical exam and medical history. This is done by examining your skin, scalp and nails.
A skin biopsy is rarely completed, but is done by taking a small sample of the skin. An anesthetic may be applied to reduce discomfort and is then examined under a microscope to determine the type of psoriasis and rule out other conditions.
How is Psoriasis treated?
The goal of Psoriasis treatment is as follows:
- To reduce and/or stop the the skin cells from growing at a rapid rate, reducing inflammation and plaque formation.
- Removing the scales and smoothing the skin.
Psoriasis treatment can be split into the following categories:
- Topical Treatments
- These used primarily (creams and ointments) can be applied to the skin to effectively treat mild to moderate psoriasis.
- For more severe cases, combination with systemic medications or light therapy is done.
- Light Therapy (phototherapy)
- This treatment is done by natural or artificial ultraviolet (UV) light. The simplest way of doing this is by exposing the skin to controlled amounts of sunlight.
- Systemic Medications (Oral/Injected Medications)
- Patients typically with severe psoriasis or those who are resistant to other types of treatment may be prescribed oral or injectable medications. Due to the severe adverse effects these may have, they are only used during short periods and are usually alternated with other forms of treatment.
- Biologics (Drugs that alter the immune system)
- These medications are given by intravenous infusion, intramuscular injections or subcutaneous injections, and are typically given to those patients who have failed other therapies or who have a psoriatic arthritis diagnosis.
- Biologics work by blocking certain immune system cells and certain inflammatory pathways. Despite these medications being derived from natural sources, they are effective in affecting the immune system and may lead to life threatening infections. Patients on biologics treatment have to be screened for tuberculosis.