Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin disease that causes irritation and redness on the surface of the skin. People suffering from psoriasis generally have thick reddish colored skin with silver white flaky patches known as scales. Psoriasis may be mild, moderate or severe based on factors such as total area of the affected skin, activity of the disease, response to therapies and impact on the patients health. There are 5 main types of psoriasis, namely plaque, inverse, guttate, erythrodermic and pustular. Plaque is the most common form of psoriasis and is characterized by white and red scaly patches on the topmost layer of the skin. Plaque psoriasis generally affects the elbows and knees but may also be seen on the palms, feet, scalp and genitals. This is a chronic skin condition that may either be seen on some parts of the body or may cover the entire body. Even the nails on the fingers and toes can get affected by this form of psoriasis. Joint inflammation can also be caused by psoriasis which can lead to psoriatic arthritis. Erythrodermic psoriasis on the other hand is characterized by an exfoliation and inflammation of the skin all over the body. Patients affected by this form of psoriasis often experience pain, swelling and severe itching. Plaque psoriasis can turn into erythrodermic psoriasis especially when treatment is discontinued before the symptoms start subsiding. If left untreated erythrodermic psoriasis can even be fatal as the extreme inflammation can hinder the body from regulating temperature. Pustular psoriasis is characterized by pus filled raised bumps on the skin surface and generally affects random body parts. Guttate psoriasis refers to small red or pink scaly teardrop shaped lesions that are typically visible on larger areas of the body such as the scalp, trunk and limbs.
The onset of psoriasis may be slow or sudden varying from person to person. The most visible symptom of psoriasis is inflamed red patches of skin that can generally be seen on the trunk, knees and elbows, but may also appear on other parts of the body. These pink or red patches of skin could be dry, itchy, thick and raised with silver flaky scales. Other symptoms of psoriasis include joint pain, genital lesions in the case of men, changes in the color and texture of the nails and severe scalp dandruff. Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body and its appearance and intensity would differ based upon the type of psoriasis. Depending on the location and severity of psoriasis an affected person may experience some disability and extreme discomfort. Day to day functions like walking and sleeping can also get disrupted by the pain and itching caused by psoriasis. Psoriasis can be easily diagnosed by a qualified dermatologist or healthcare expert. The diagnosis is generally made based on the location and types of skin changes on the body. Unless there is some confusion regarding the diagnosis, no further tests are required to confirm this condition. A skin biopsy may be recommended in very rare cases to make an accurate diagnosis. Conditions like eczema may also have similar symptoms and hence it is important to rule out such problems before a diagnosis of psoriasis. Psoriasis must be treated promptly to avoid other complications like psoriatic arthritis, secondary fungal or bacterial infections of the skin, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and atherosclerosis. Therefore an early and acute diagnosis is very important for treating this condition and avoiding related complications.
Psoriasis is caused by an abnormal response of the immune system which results in inflammation. Even though this condition is not contagious, it could be aggravated by certain factors such as changes in the climate, infections, skin diseases or injuries, excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking, sun exposure, anxiety or stress and certain medications. There are also a number of factors that can increase the risk of developing psoriasis. People who drink excessive alcohol and have chronic smoking habits are always more at higher risk of developing conditions like psoriasis. A family history of psoriasis or skin diseases can increase a persons chances of getting this disease himself. People who suffer from HIV/AIDS and cancer have a weak immune system and often fall prey to some form of psoriasis. Those who live in cold and dry climatic conditions are also more prone to psoriasis. Those who have unhealthy eating habits are also at a higher risk of getting psoriasis because bad food can directly impact immunity and pave the way for various skin conditions including psoriasis. An unhealthy diet can give rise to respiratory infections which in turn can cause psoriasis. Stressful life situations such as death in the family, divorce, unhealthy relations within the family and job changes could be some of the other causes of psoriasis.
Although there is no particular way of completely preventing psoriasis, certain simple tips can help control flare ups and improve the symptoms of this condition such as:
Simple lifestyle changes such as following a healthy daily diet and exercising regularly can help build immunity and also help in preventing conditions like psoriasis. Although psoriasis cannot be completely cured its symptoms can be controlled with the help of oral and topical medications. Doctors generally prescribe antibiotics, antihistamines or antifungal drugs, injections, creams, lotions, ointments and shampoos for treating psoriasis symptoms. Phototherapy may also be recommended in some cases. In addition to these treatment options, simple remedies prepared at home can also help in controlling psoriasis symptoms to a large extent. An oatmeal bath or bath products may be very soothing for psoriasis patients and can also help in loosening dry scales. Almond powder boiled in water, cooled and applied on the affected skin overnight is very helpful in relieving some of the symptoms of psoriasis. Similarly a paste of sandalwood powder, water and rose water is also useful in treating psoriasis symptoms. Soap nut boiled in water and applied on the scalp can help relieve an itchy scalp in psoriasis. Another effective home remedy is covering the psoriasis rash with a thin banana leaf. A mixture of water and lime juice can also be applied on the patches of skin affected by psoriasis. Garlic helps in purifying the blood and therefore eating a few garlic cloves everyday can help flush out impurities from the body and protect against psoriasis.
Although there is no particular diet that can help in curing psoriasis, in general a healthy balanced diet is beneficial to those suffering from this condition. Psoriasis patients should follow a daily diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, protein sources like chicken, fish, legumes and pulses, fiber rich foods like whole wheat products, grains, nuts and seeds and healthy oils like olive oil. It is always preferable to avoid processed foods, red meats, saturated fats, refined sugars and high carbohydrate products. Healthy foods provide essential nutrients to the body that help boost immunity and strengthen the body against disorders like psoriasis. Simple recipes like cabbage soup, bitter gourd juice and most other vegetable juices should also be included in a patients daily diet to help guard the body against psoriasis. Foods rich in vitamin E such as sweet potato, spinach, almond oil, wheat germ and sunflower seeds are also very beneficial to psoriasis sufferers. Apart from making healthy diet changes a patient should also be given supplements of vitamin A, B6, C, E, magnesium and zinc which are very beneficial in the treatment of psoriasis.
While taking care of psoriasis patients there are a few useful tips that caregivers can keep in mind such as:
Additionally it is also important to avoid certain medications that can aggravate the symptoms of psoriasis. Anti-malarial drugs, beta blockers, lithium, interferons, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, antidepressants and smoking-cessation pills should all be avoided by patients of psoriasis unless prescribed by the doctor under certain circumstances.