Do you suffer from dry and cracked skin with red patches? Does the constant itchy and burning sensation impact your quality of life? You’re not alone. Psoriasis is a skin condition that affects up to 7.5 million Americans (2.2% of the population). Worldwide, it impacts a whopping 100 million people. Despite its prevalence, it is a much less well-known compared to other chronic skin conditions such as eczema.
What Causes Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is caused by excessive build-up of cells on the skin because it speeds up the lifecycle of skin cells. Typically, a skin cell’s life cycle is one month. With psoriasis, the process speeds up tenfold: those suffering from psoriasis can produce up to 10 times the skin cells as a normal person. Psoriasis is much more than just excessive skin cells though. Not only does it cause scaling, flaking, and red patches, it can cause extreme pain, discomfort, and itchiness which can disrupt one’s quality of life.
Who Gets Psoriasis?
Unfortunately, just about anyone can get psoriasis. It’s more common if your family has a history of the disease - you’re 50% more likely to get it if both your parents suffer from it. Smoking, obesity, infections, and drugs such as NSAIDs are also linked to higher rates of psoriasis. Psoriasis can develop at any age, but it’s more common to develop psoriasis from ages 15 to 35.
Do I Have Psoriasis?
If you experience any of the psoriatic symptoms such as excessive skin flaking, red rashes, itchiness, and joint pain, you may have psoriasis. Typically, psoriasis affects your elbows, knees, scalp, back, face, palms, and feet. Understand that many of the psoriasis symptoms are similar to those in other skin conditions such as eczema or arthritis. That’s why it’s important to consult your doctor for proper diagnosis. Doctors can use a combination of medical history, physical examination, microscopic analysis of skin, and blood tests to determine if you have psoriasis or not.
How Do You Treat Psoriasis?
Psoriasis often comes in waves: it can sometimes cause you tons of problems and sometimes it’s hardly noticeable. Unfortunately, it’s a chronic condition so there’s no simple magic “cure” for it. Getting better is all about learning to live with psoriasis, avoiding your “triggers” and using the right type of skincare.
The first step to treat psoriasis (aside from consulting with your doctor first) is to work to define triggers. For example, you may notice that your psoriasis is worse if you drink alcohol or eat certain types of foods. It’s best to systematically eliminate the triggers from your diet and lifestyle. Likewise, it’s better not to use scented perfumes or cosmetic products as this could make your psoriasis worse.
For dietary supplements, many psoriasis sufferers have had success with Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin D, Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and MSM. If you are taking any OTC or prescription medications though, it’s best to consult with your doctor about any potential interactions.
Finally, treating psoriasis is all about taking great care of your skin. Prevent dry skin by using a humidifier. Be sure to use moisturizer after bathing. Although moisturizer itself won’t necessarily heal your psoriasis, they are essential in reducing some of the worst symptoms like excessive itchiness, scaling, and dryness.
Salicylic acid is a skincare treatment that may be highly effective in helping with your psoriasis. That’s because salicylic acid helps promote the turnover of dead skin cells which reduces scaling. It’s worth looking into ointments that contain salicylic acid to see if it helps with your condition.
Living with Psoriasis
Despite being a very serious skin condition, it’s important to feel empowered and learn to control your psoriasis rather than have it control your life. There is a fair amount of stigma related to skin conditions but it isn’t anything to be ashamed about. Millions of people suffer from psoriasis and are just as successful and motivated as those without it. Fully understanding your own condition and educating your friends and family is the best thing you can do to overcome the challenges of psoriasis.