Living With Psoriasis and How to Treat It
What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition caused by an autoimmune disorder and seen as red, inflamed skin that is often scaly. On a good day, psoriasis is mildly irritating, but on flare-up days, it can be extremely painful—even debilitating.
There is no proven cause of the disease, but it's believed that a number of factors may cause it. These include:
- Genetics - up to a third of sufferers have a family history
- Lifestyle - including being overweight, drinking alcohol and smoking
- HIV - due to a weakened immune system
- Microbes - after strep throat, and may be exacerbated by skin or gut colonization
- Temperature - extreme weather conditions such as cold weather, and also very hot or very cold water
- Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) - Shampoos and soaps containing SLES can aggravate psoriasis
The reason for scales is that the body is unable to shed skin at a 'normal' rate, resulting in a build-up of skin. This is often visible around the hairline, eyebrows, facial hair, back of the ears, inside the ear, and on the cheeks.
Where Is Psoriasis Found on the Body?
Psoriasis can be found on any part of the body.
Most commonly, it will develop on the scalp, elbows, and knees but can also be found on the torso, hands, and armpits.
I know of one sufferer who has developed psoriasis on the palms of his hands and soles of his feet. This makes walking excruciating and leaves him with deep cuts on his hand.
Medicines to Treat Psoriasis
I have tried every single cream and pill for psoriasis possible, and what works for one person doesn't always work for the next. As you can see from the photography there are many different medications available.
The very dry skin is usually treated with a paraffin-based emollient cream. The emollient softens the skin and can help to break down the skin scales into smaller pieces.
Another common treatment for the illness is steroid creams such as Betamethasone. Let's take a look at these in more detail.
Oilatum is my go-to skin cream, which I apply after my morning shower and before I go to bed. Over the years, I have found it to be the most useful cream to keep psoriasis at bay, particularly on my face.
Oilatum cream is an emollient, so it softens and soothes hot or itchy skin. It is used in the treatment of atopic eczema. It is also used to treat contact dermatitis, senile pruritis, and dry sensitive skin including ichthyosis.
It helps to moisturise the skin after washing and is suitable for people allergic to lanolin.
Oilatum is also available without a prescription and is particularly effective for use in combination with the bath wash.
Alphosyl and T/Gel are just two of many coal tar products aimed at easing symptoms of psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis (most commonly called dandruff).
Coal tar helps to slow the rapid growth of skin cells and at the same time restore the appearance of the skin. In addition, it can help reduce inflammation, itching, and scaling associated with psoriasis.
There are different strengths of product available both with and without a prescription.
In some cases, coal tar can cause irritation. There is also evidence that long-term exposure to coal tar in an industrial environment can cause cancer. I tend to use the stronger (over-the-counter) product one a week and the weaker T/Gel in between.
Dovobet Gel and Cream
Dovobet is a trade name for a product which contains vitamin D as well as the steroid betamethasone dipropionate. The gel form is easy to apply to the scalp but can leave an oily film. It is usually be applied before bed so that it can work overnight and then washed off in the morning.
Although Dovobet works for many sufferers, some do report complications. As with any steroid cream, it should be applied in small amounts and strictly as directed as it can think the skin.
Betacap is a liquid steroid application, which evaporates fairly quickly. As with Dovobet, it's best applied before bed.
Here we are again—another steroid—hydrocortisone. This one is quite mild and can be used for flare-ups. But of course, if you're not good with steroids, avoid this one.
Emollin Emollient Spray
Emollin Emollient Spray is a fairly new kid on the block, which is used for a number of dry skin problems. It is purely made from white soft paraffin BP and liquid paraffin BP. However, unlike other products, Emollin is sprayed onto the skin and there's no need to rub it in. This can be particularly helpful where the skin is sore, bleeding, or very sensitive.
Natural Psoriasis Treatments
There are a number of natural treatments for psoriasis which some people swear by and which avoid hard chemicals and drugs. I've used a number of them over the past month with varying degrees of success.
I cannot recommend Calendula highly enough and was first introduced to the product by my sister-in-law as a recommended treatment for my daughter's eczema (which was cleared up in less than a month). This naturally occurring oil from the marigold plant does wonders to keep the symptoms of psoriasis and eczema.
Don't take my word for it. It has been reported in the British press that calendula is rapidly being bought up from shops as a cure for children skin problem by parents, with one bottle being sold every two minutes and adults also buying the product for themselves.
Use the product daily in place of normal shampoo.
Hemp oil is the naturally occurring oil of the hemp plant seed, but before you get any ideas about getting baked, it should be noted that help oil is 100% free of the cannabinoids which can result in psychoactive effects if consumed.
Hemp oil is extremely high in omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids and is low in saturated fatty acids. Not only is it a healthy oil to eat, it's also lauded by many to help slow down the growth of skin cells which cause the flaky skin scales associated with the disease.
I recently began using hemp oil, and I'm still to see an improvement, but I'll be reporting back once I've given the oil a chance.
Water, water, water!
We all know the benefits of drinking water, but there's also a lot of evidence to show that it can help combat psoriasis.
The skin in an organ of the body and like all the other organs it needs water to function properly. In fact, around 60 percent of the body is water so it makes perfect sense that dehydration will worsen the symptoms of dry skin.
Ultraviolet Light Therapy/Phototherapy
In more severe cases of psoriasis, your medical practitioner may refer you to ultraviolet light therapy. Ultraviolet light therapy has a high level of success in reducing the symptoms of psoriasis but it should be remembered that there is no cure.
Patients will usually be invited along to a medical center and placed in a room with their genitals covered (men may be asked to take a sock to cover their penis and testicles). UV goggles are also worn. The body is subjected to a short burst of intensive ultraviolet light over a period of weeks or months.
You can purchase UV light kits online and treat yourself, but I had no success with this. In fact, I think it made my symptoms worse.
Immunotherapy: The Last Resort
Immunotherapy for psoriasis is a new treatment which targets specific inflammatory cytokines stimulated in psoriasis.
Patients need regular monitoring and blood tests. Speak to your practitioner if you've tried everything else and nothing is working.