Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a disease which affects the skin and joints. It commonly causes red, dry, scaly patches to appear on the skin. The scaly patches caused by psoriasis are areas of inflammation and excessive skin production. Skin rapidly accumulates at these sites and takes a silvery-white appearance. Plaques frequently occur on the skin of the elbows and knees, but can affect any area including the scalp and genitals. Psoriasis is thought to be immune-mediated and is not contagious.

The disorder is a chronic recurring condition which varies in severity from minor localized patches to complete body coverage. Fingernails and toenails are frequently affected. Psoriasis can also cause inflammation of the joints, which is known as psoriatic arthritis. Ten to fifteen percent of people with psoriasis have psoriatic arthritis.

The cause of psoriasis is not known, but it is believed to have a genetic component. Several factors are thought to aggravate psoriasis. These include stress, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking. Individuals with psoriasis may suffer from depression and loss of self-esteem. As such, quality of life is an important factor in evaluating the severity of the disease. There are many treatments available but because of its chronic recurrent nature psoriasis is a challenge to treat.

If you think you have psoriasis but have not been diagnosed then please talk to your doctor. The core treatments for psoriasis are on prescription only and will need to be used for the long term. (Calcipotriol and stronger corticosteroid creams and ointments).

Over the counter treatments:

Psoriasis affecting the skin:

Bath oils like Oilatum and Balneum and moisturizers like E45 cream and Diprobase help soothe affected skin and reduce the dryness which accompanies the build-up of skin on psoriatic plaques.

Creams and ointments containing dithranol are effective but much less used now because they stain the skin.

Scalp psoriasis:

Treatment involves two stages

1.Thick scale should be softened with olive, coconut or almond oil, ideally applied under a shower cap or cling film. This should be left on for at least an hour, then some of the loosened scales can be combed out followed by shampooing the hair with a disinfectant shampoo. This may need to be repeated daily for a few days.

2. Active treatment with coal tar shampoo like Neutrogena T-gel or Polytar liquid

It has long been recognized that daily, short, non-burning exposure to sunlight helps to clear or improve psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a lifelong condition. There is currently no cure but various treatments can help to control the symptoms. However, the majority of people's experience of psoriasis is that of minor localized patches, particularly on the elbows and knees, which can be treated with topical medication. Psoriasis can get worse over time but it is not possible to predict who will go on to develop extensive psoriasis or those in whom the disease may appear to vanish. Individuals will often experience flares and remissions throughout their lives. Controlling the symptoms typically requires lifelong therapy.

For much more information click PSORIASIS or go to NHSDirect at www.nhs.uk

This page was last updated: Monday 25 September, 2017