Psoriasis is an ailment that results in the rapid and excessive growth of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin).
The symptoms of the disease are quite distinct, and in most cases, it is easy to diagnose this condition. The affected part of the skin may have red or pink patches with scales and plaques that are itchy and painful. No special procedures or blood tests are necessary to diagnose this condition. Here are the common symptoms that can help in diagnosing psoriasis:
- Red and pink patches covered with thick, silvery scales that are painful or itchy
- Small, red spots with scales in children
- Dried and cracked skin
- Pitted, thickened, and misshapen nails
- Stiff and swollen joints
Some forms of psoriasis, like guttate psoriasis, may be mistaken for other ailments like eczema and pityriasis rosea. In such cases, a biopsy is useful in getting an accurate diagnosis. Nail fungus may sometimes be diagnosed as nail psoriasis. Rashes caused by secondary syphilis can be mistaken for psoriasis. A lot of times, patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (a type of skin cancer) have been misdiagnosed with psoriasis.
Triggers of psoriasis
- Psoriasis is known to get triggered by defects in the immune system.
- Genetics is also known to contribute to the development of this condition.
- Environmental factors also play a role in the development of psoriasis.
- A group of medicines, called beta-blockers, are suspected to trigger psoriasis.
Yet, besides these links, there is no knowledge of one key factor or switch that leads to the onset of psoriasis. Some theories also suggest that stress and alcohol consumption are triggers of this condition.
There are numerous treatment options to manage psoriasis.
- For the mild varieties of psoriasis, topical agents are used. These corticosteroids are most effective if used continuously for 8 weeks. Other medicines like coal tar have not been effective. Combined medications, like a combination of vitamin D analog and a corticosteroid, have enhanced the effects of these medicines as compared to other treatments involving only one of these medications.
- When topical agents and mild medications are not effective, doctors prescribe stronger medicines that may be administered orally or via injection. These medications have severe side effects, and so, they are only prescribed for a short duration of time. Some of these medicines are retinoids (help in reducing cell production), biologics (alter the immune system to prevent interaction between the immune system and inflammatory pathways), and methotrexate and cyclosporine (suppress the immune system response).
- To address the symptom of scales, moisturizers like petroleum jelly and emollients are used. These substances soften, relax, and soothe the skin.
- Light therapy uses ultra-violet rays or natural light to kill the overactive white blood cells of the immune system. This treatment does not destroy the healthy cells, and in this way, helps stop the progress of psoriasis. Even exposure to sunlight and sunbathing are beneficial for psoriasis.
- When psoriasis affects the body as pustules, the condition is called generalized pustular psoriasis or Von Zumbusch psoriasis. Hospitalization, rest, and rehydration are essential. The usual forms of treatment like topical agents, medications, and light therapy are also administered to treat this condition.