It is probably safe to say that everyone experiences some form of dry, itchy skin from time to time especially in the dry winter months; but, what you think is just a simple case of dry skin may in fact be psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic and sometimes painful skin disease that affects up to 7.5 million people, with the largest percentage of sufferers between the ages of 18 and 35. This persistent disease is primarily seen on the skin of the scalp, elbows, knees and lower back, causes skin to become inflamed, producing red, thickened patches with silvery scales. Lesions usually itch or feel sore and burn. Plaques that appear on hands or feet can interfere with normal daily physical activities, playing sports or even simply managing daily tasks.
In some cases, the psoriasis may be so mild that it goes unnoticed, but in some extreme cases, patients may experience significant physical discomfort and disability. Like those suffering from other severe skin diseases, psoriasis sufferers with moderate to severe symptoms may experience poor self-image and may feel embarrassed about their appearance. The results of this can cause emotional damage even after the symptoms have been treated.
Little is known about what actually causes psoriasis, though recent discoveries point to abnormal functions involving the type of white blood cell known as T lymphocytes, or a T cell. T cells play a central role in cell-mediated immunity, normally helping to protect your body against infection and disease. With psoriasis, however, T cells become so active that they trigger other immune responses and cause inflammation. This inflammation then causes the skin to shed too rapidly and accumulate on the surface before it has a chance to mature. This process, which in normal skin happens in 30 days, is completed sometimes as quickly as every three to four days in those with psoriasis.
Fortunately, psoriasis can successfully be treated with the proper medical assistance. Although the disease comes in many forms, the overall goal is to reduce the patients inflammation and control the excess shedding of skin. A topical treatment, such as a cream or ointment, or a shampoo if the condition has manifested on the scalp, will sometimes sufficiently treat the condition, though pills and injections may be necessary to boost the bodys immune system.
Phototherapy is a method that is commonly prescribed to treat psoriasis. With phototherapy, skin is exposed to ultraviolet light, which decreases new cell growth. Exposure to natural sunlight falls under this treatment category, but controlled doses of ultraviolet light is a safer form of treatment as the energy used is more specific and defined. While the suns rays contain both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB), a focused form of UVB known as narrow band UVB has been found to be most effective in treating psoriasis.
Phototherapy may be used alone or in combination with topical, oral, or injected treatments. Consistency is the key to treating psoriasis with phototherapy. Regimens may require two to three treatments per week for two to three months, and side effects, such as temporarily increased redness and irritation, may occur. The treatments with narrowband UVB are rapid, usually less than 4 minutes.
A patient may never be completely cured of psoriasis; however, multiple factors contribute to keeping skin healthy. Even when psoriasis isnt present, patients should take special care of their skin by using lotions and creams to keep it moisturized, limiting exposure to cold, dry conditions, and using a humidifier in the home. Experts suggest that maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating right, decreasing stress, limiting alcohol intake, and getting regular exercise can help keep flare-ups at bay.
Article Source: DermCenterTX