All about Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common chronic disease that can be bothersome and lifestyle limiting.

What does psoriasis look like?

Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes red, itchy, scaly patches, most commonly on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp. Psoriasis is a common, long-term (chronic) disease with no cure. The affected areas can be itchy or sore. There is a cyclic trend by which the skin flares for a few weeks or months, then subsides for a while. The patches can also disappear temporarily, this is called remission.

What causes it?

The skin becomes inflamed and red causing serious itching and discomfort. The appearance of the skin can cause patients distress. Doctors do not know the exact causes of psoriasis but research suggests it is caused by chronic autoimmune conditions that result in the overproduction of skin cells.

How does it differ from eczema?

Although psoriasis can sometimes look similar to eczema or atopic dermatitis. They are different diseases with different underlying pathology. Eczema occurs because of a hypersensitivity reaction and is common in children and infants.

Can diet and lifestyle changes help?

Lifestyle and healthy habits can help ease and prevent flare-ups.

Reducing alcohol consumption can increase remissions as treatment becomes more effective. The importance of maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of psoriasis flares. This can be linked with a decreased risk of developing diseases associated with psoriasis including, heart disease, high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, fatty liver disease and diabetes.

How can a GP help?

A GP can help to diagnose psoriasis and discuss the various treatment options with the patients. They can evaluate lifestyle and if necessary refer to a dermatologist.

Treatments options depend on the severity of the disease and what has or has not worked before. They include the following:

  1. Topical creams, gels, ointments and shampoos
  2. Phototherapy – uses ultraviolet light (UV) on the skin, which can reduce the size, itchiness and appearance of plaques
  3. Oral medications that modulate or suppress the immune system
  4. Injections of immune-modulating medication

Once you have psoriasis do you have it forever or is it treatable?

Psoriasis is a chronic disease and can last a lifetime. There is currently no cure for psoriasis. However effective treatment is available which offers a decrease risk in flare-ups and increase remission.

When do you refer to a dermatologist?

When psoriasis is severe of has not responded to topical treatments.

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