More than 7 million people in the United States alone suffer from psoriasis. While the condition is not life-threatening in any way, it is a recurring problem in the lives of many people.
The most worrying part about this autoimmune disorder is the lack of available treatments. There are certain drug options, but none of those target the issue at its roots. At best, they work on a symptomatic level to temporarily get rid of psoriasis.
Today we will go through various treatment options for psoriasis. Before beginning, it is important to note that there is no guaranteed cure for psoriasis.
For most people, it is a matter of managing the condition and not curing it. It is also worth noting that lifestyle changes can have a huge effect on the severity of psoriasis.
Let's begin with the medical definition first. In medical terms, psoriasis is what we call an autoimmune disorder. That means it is a result of the body's immune system attacking itself instead of external agents.
It is characterized by red and itchy skin patches that tend to get extremely dry and flaky. It happens most commonly on the knees, legs, and scalp. Psoriasis of the scalp can often be the worst since it also affects your hair growth and health.
Psoriasis is a chronic health condition. It does not go away completely, but you can minimize its harmful effects. Typically, psoriasis affects our bodies in cycles. In one phase, you may not experience much itchiness or discomfort. In the next phase, your skin condition might become worse.
As we have already mentioned, there is no fixed cure for psoriasis. Different things work for different people. There are certain drug options, but none of those promise long-term relief. The only way to truly experience long-term relief is through lifestyle changes. Even tiny lifestyle changes can go a long way in dealing with psoriasis.
It is also worth mentioning that psoriasis is as much of a body-image issue for people. Sometimes, being conscious of the condition can make you self-aware and underconfident. It is a common thread with any skin condition that is visible on the surface. Remember that it is nothing but yet another skin disorder and there is no shame in suffering from something you had no role to play in.
Causes of psoriasis
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder. All autoimmune disorders are characterized by the body's immunity system working against itself. In fact, it is even more complicated than this simplistic definition.
When your immune system does more (or less) than what it is supposed to do, you suffer autoimmune problems. In the case of psoriasis, the immune system does more than what it needs to.
It triggers the growth of skin faster than normal rates. As you know, human skin continuously degenerates and regenerates. This process is normal and happens in all animals, not just humans.
However, this process leads to psoriasis when the regeneration rate of new skin cells is much higher than normal. It results in a flaky and itchy skin condition that can also turn the affected area red.
Why autoimmune disorders happen is still a matter of medical research. While scientists have come up with various hypotheses, nothing has been proved yet. For example, it is known that psoriasis can be caused due to genetic factors. What role external conditions play in it is still unclear.
On the other hand, there are some known triggers of psoriasis. These triggers exaggerate the condition whenever someone with psoriasis is facing them. Dry and cold weather is one such trigger. If you already have psoriasis and visit a cold and dry place, the chances of the condition getting triggered are very high.
There are several other triggers of psoriasis:
Consuming alcohol tends to dehydrate the body
Certain medicinal drugs
Consumption of steroids
Other skin infections
If you are suffering from psoriasis, knowing and understanding your triggers is very important. By doing so, you can stay away from the known triggers in order to prevent exaggeration of the condition.
Symptoms of psoriasis
Psoriasis symptoms can vary from one person to another. However, there are several common threads in all symptoms.
The first and the most obvious symptom is a change in how the skin appears and feels. Psoriasis is marked by red and itchy skin that can also have thick scales. Your skin becomes much rougher than it actually is and there is a considerable amount of shedding of scales. This type of skin is usually found on elbows, knees, and the scalp. The size of the affected area also varies. Sometimes it can come in small patches. At other times, it can cover huge parts of the body.
There are different types of psoriasis as well. The condition that affects fingers and toenails is called nail psoriasis. Children and young adults suffer from what we call guttate psoriasis. Pustular psoriasis comes with lesions filled with pus and is a much worse condition than normal psoriasis. Inverse psoriasis, on the other hand, causes smooth patches of red skin that can be equally uncomfortable.
As you can see, the symptoms of psoriasis vary greatly. Two people might have very different symptoms of the same problem. However, there is one positive. All the symptoms of psoriasis are easily diagnosable. You can understand that something is wrong with your skin even before you see a doctor. If you identify psoriasis in your skin, it is always better to get confirmation from a doctor.
Treatment options for psoriasis
There are several treatment options for psoriasis, but none of them promise long-term relief. The very nature of autoimmune disorders makes it impossible for anyone to provide a lasting solution for the condition. Since you are fighting your own immune system and not external agents, managing psoriasis becomes much trickier.
If your doctor deems it fit, they might recommend Corticosteroids. These are the most common treatment options for psoriasis. However, we would urge you to think twice before consuming Corticosteroids.
With time, the effectiveness of Corticosteroids decreases. Even worse, prolonged use of it can make your skin very thin. That, in turn, can become a problem in itself. Staying away from steroids as far as practicable is a smart choice.
Doctors also use Vitamin D analogs to treat psoriasis. They are known to reduce the speed at which new skin grows. Going through a Vitamin D analog treatment can be more expensive than consuming steroids. However, you have fewer things to worry about in the long run with this treatment. While it does not guarantee any long-term relief, the side effects are much less severe.
Another potentially dangerous option is using calcineurin inhibitors. These inhibitors are better avoided since long-term use of them has links to cancer. On top of that, pregnant women are strictly prohibited from having calcineurin inhibitors. This treatment option is only for exceptional cases when the doctors do not seem to have any other option. If you have the choice, you should try to avoid them as much as possible.
Beyond these treatment options, there are many other ways that involve the use of salicylic acid, anthralin, coal tar, UV light therapy, and so on. To get any of these treatments, you must visit a licensed physician only.
Another way of looking at psoriasis is from the lens of lifestyle changes. If you do a few things with discipline, psoriasis can be in check. Most importantly, these lifestyle changes do not have any negative ramifications. If anything, they will make you a healthier person overall.
Now we will discuss some of the most common lifestyle changes that can help you deal with psoriasis. Remember that not every change would work for everyone. Figure out the things that suit your body and exclude the rest. If anything leads to undesirable results, stop doing it immediately.
Stay hydrated, inside and out
Psoriasis, as we all know, is a dry skin problem. It is intuitive that you would want to be hydrated to deal with this problem. Drinking enough water is the first step for everyone.
On top of that, consider adding moisturizing products to your skincare routine. Consider this shea butter and cocoa moisturizing lotion that has no harmful chemicals. Both the ingredients are also known for their hydrating properties. Since psoriasis can occur in the scalp as well, it is important to keep your scalp hydrated at all times. That also brings us to our next point.
Apart from that, make sure your shampoo and conditioner have hydration properties. Try shampoos with argan oil or coconut milk, since both these ingredients have deep hydration properties. The same rules apply to conditioners as well. Coconut milk or avocado conditioner would work very well to keep your hair and scalp hydrated. These are small lifestyle changes that can go a long way to keeping you away from psoriasis.
Use aloe vera
Aloe vera is a panacea for skin and hair problems. This wonder plant has taken the health and beauty industry by storm, and for good reasons. Using aloe vera gel in psoriasis-affected areas can be one of the best yet simplest treatment options. You can even use an aloe vera cream on the affected body parts. For the hair and scalp, aloe vera gel works really well. Aloe vera is safe, effective, and readily available. It is one of the best treatment options for psoriasis in our opinion.
Quit or reduce smoking and alcohol consumption
Both smoking and alcohol consumption dehydrate the body. If you are a habitual smoker and drinker, psoriasis will affect you much worse than others. The worst part about tobacco and alcohol is that they will hinder other things you do to deal with psoriasis. Getting rid of the habit is the best thing you can do for long-term health. In the short term, the results will reflect the severity of psoriasis.
While quitting cold turkey is not for everyone, you should at least try to moderate the amount of tobacco and alcohol you have. If you have had a night of heavy drinking, remember to hydrate yourself continuously. The same goes for smokers who smoke throughout the day. The benefits of not smoking and drinking will show up in every aspect of your life.
Eating well and managing body weight is important to deal with psoriasis. One of the possible reasons for psoriasis is the deficiency of minerals and vitamins. If your regular diet does not fulfill all micronutrient needs of the body, consider adding supplements. At the same time, never go for supplements that are synthetically derived.
Managing your body weight is also very critical for overall good health and also psoriasis. It is a natural consequence of eating well and exercising. You should always try to be in a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index) range. If you are overweight and also have psoriasis, dealing with the issue becomes much more complicated.
We hope you will be able to battle psoriasis with strength and discipline. For any of the solutions to work, you must be disciplined and consistent. While psoriasis cannot be treated completely, it can be minimized to a great extent. By following a few simple rules and making some changes in your lifestyle, you too can win over psoriasis.