What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition of the skin. Sufferers typically have a rash consisting of unsightly, red, scaly patches on the skin.
Whilst typically not as itchy as eczema, it is unsightly and can be socially stigmatising. Any part of the body can be affected but often it occurs on the knees, elbows and scalp. Psoriasis is very common: 2-3% of the world’s population have it and it can occur at any age and vary in severity.
WHAT CAUSES PSORIASIS?
This is still not clear. It is inflammatory, not infectious or contagious. In part it’s thought to be caused by an abnormality in the immune system, resulting in excessive inflammation in the skin. With Psoriasis the skin renews itself much faster than normal but the dead cells at the skin surface don’t shed off as they would normally. This leads to a build-up of skin and the visibly thick plaques so characteristic of Psoriasis. Also, there is increased blood flow in affected areas. Genetic factors also play a part with half of Psoriasis patients having a family member who is also affected. The tendency to Psoriasis is usually lifelong which means sometimes treatments need to be used continuously, although it can spontaneously go into remission, often for long periods.
How is Psoriasis treated?
Whilst it is not possible to cure someone of the tendency to psoriasis, the good news is that there are a variety of very effective treatments available and it’s usually possible to keep things well controlled and the skin looking good.
Paying attention to certain lifestyle factors can be helpful, such as avoiding excessive alcohol, cutting down or stopping smoking, and maintaining an ideal weight. For mild to moderate disease a cream will often be all that’s required. More severe disease can be sometimes be managed with phototherapy (ultraviolet light treatment) or tablets, usually one of Cyclosporin, Acitretin, or Methotrexate. These medicines do have the potential to cause side effects, but this will be discussed with you in full before treatment is started.
If all else fails patients may be available for Medicare funded treatment with a biologic agent which is usually extremely effective. Examples include Secukinumab (Cosentyx), Ustekinumab (Stelara) and Adalimumab (Humira) amongst others.