PSORIASIS

PSORIASIS

General Infomation
Definition: 

Psoriasis is a common skin disease that affects the life cycle of skin cells. Psoriasis causes cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin, forming thick silvery scales and itchy, dry, red patches that are sometimes painful.
Psoriasis is a persistent, long-lasting (chronic) disease. You may have periods when your psoriasis symptoms improve or go into remission alternating with times your psoriasis worsens.
For some people, psoriasis is just a nuisance. For others, it's disabling, especially when associated with arthritis. No cure exists, but psoriasis treatments may offer significant relief. Lifestyle measures, such as using a nonprescription cortisone cream and exposing your skin to small amounts of natural sunlight, can improve your psoriasis symptoms.

Symptoms: 

Psoriasis signs and symptoms can vary from person to person but may include one or more of the following:
• Red patches of skin covered with silvery scales
• Small scaling spots (commonly seen in children)
• Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
• Itching, burning or soreness
• Thickened, pitted or ridged nails
• Swollen and stiff joints
Psoriasis patches can range from a few spots of dandruff-like scaling to major eruptions that cover large areas. Mild cases of psoriasis may be a nuisance. But more severe cases can be painful, disfiguring and disabling.
Most types of psoriasis go through cycles, flaring for a few weeks or months, then subsiding for a time or even going into complete remission. In most cases, however, the disease eventually returns.
Several types of psoriasis exist. These include:
• Plaque psoriasis. The most common form, plaque psoriasis causes dry, raised, red skin lesions (plaques) covered with silvery scales. The plaques itch or may be painful and can occur anywhere on your body, including your genitals and the soft tissue inside your mouth. You may have just a few plaques or many, and in severe cases, the skin around your joints may crack and bleed.
• Nail psoriasis. Psoriasis can affect fingernails and toenails, causing pitting, abnormal nail growth and discoloration. Psoriatic nails may become loose and separate from the nail bed (onycholysis). Severe cases may cause the nail to crumble.
• Scalp psoriasis. Psoriasis on the scalp appears as red, itchy areas with silvery-white scales. You may notice flakes of dead skin in your hair or on your shoulders, especially after scratching your scalp.
• Guttate psoriasis. This primarily affects people younger than 30 and is usually triggered by a bacterial infection such as strep throat. It's marked by small, water-drop-shaped sores on your trunk, arms, legs and scalp. The sores are covered by a fine scale and aren't as thick as typical plaques are. You may have a single outbreak that goes away on its own, or you may have repeated episodes, especially if you have ongoing respiratory infections.
• Inverse psoriasis. Mainly affecting the skin in the armpits, groin, under the breasts and around the genitals, inverse psoriasis causes smooth patches of red, inflamed skin. It's more common in overweight people and is worsened by friction and sweating.
• Pustular psoriasis. This uncommon form of psoriasis can occur in widespread patches (generalized pustular psoriasis) or in smaller areas on your hands, feet or fingertips. It generally develops quickly, with pus-filled blisters appearing just hours after your skin becomes red and tender. The blisters dry within a day or two but may reappear every few days or weeks. Generalized pustular psoriasis can also cause fever, chills, severe itching and fatigue.
• Erythrodermic psoriasis. The least common type of psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis can cover your entire body with a red, peeling rash that can itch or burn intensely. It may be triggered by severe sunburn, by corticosteroids and other medications, or by another type of psoriasis that's poorly controlled.
• Psoriatic arthritis. In addition to inflamed, scaly skin, psoriatic arthritis causes pitted, discolored nails and the swollen, painful joints that are typical of arthritis. It can also lead to inflammatory eye conditions such as conjunctivitis. Symptoms range from mild to severe. Although the disease usually isn't as crippling as other forms of arthritis, it can cause stiffness and progressive joint damage that in the most serious cases may lead to permanent deformity.
When to see a doctor
If you suspect that you may have psoriasis, see your doctor for a complete examination. Also, talk to your doctor if your psoriasis:
• Progresses beyond the nuisance stage, causing you discomfort and pain
• Makes performing routine tasks difficult
• Causes you concern about the appearance of your skin
Be sure to seek medical advice if your signs and symptoms worsen or they don't improve with treatment. You may need a different medication or a combination of treatments to manage the psoriasis.

Causes & Complication
Causes: 

The cause of psoriasis is related to the immune system, and more specifically, a type of white blood cell called a T lymphocyte or T cell. Normally, T cells travel throughout the body to detect and fight off foreign substances, such as viruses or bacteria. If you have psoriasis, however, the T cells attack healthy skin cells by mistake as if to heal a wound or to fight an infection.
Overactive T cells trigger other immune responses including dilation of blood vessels in the skin around the plaques and an increase in other white blood cells that can enter the epidermis. These changes result in an increased production of both healthy skin cells and more T cells and other white blood cells. What results is an ongoing cycle in which new skin cells move to the outermost layer of skin too quickly — in days rather than weeks. Dead skin and white blood cells can't slough off quickly enough and build up in thick, scaly patches on the skin's surface. This usually doesn't stop unless treatment interrupts the cycle.
Just what causes T cells to malfunction in people with psoriasis isn't entirely clear, although researchers think genetic and environmental factors both play a role.
Psoriasis triggers
Psoriasis typically starts or worsens because of a trigger that you may be able to identify and avoid. Factors that may trigger psoriasis include:
• Infections, such as strep throat or thrush
• Injury to the skin, such as a cut or scrape, bug bite, or a severe sunburn
• Stress
• Cold weather
• Smoking
• Heavy alcohol consumption
• Certain medications — including lithium, which is prescribed for bipolar disorder; high blood pressure medications such as beta blockers; antimalarial drugs; and iodides

Risk Factors: 

Anyone can develop psoriasis, but these factors can increase your risk of developing the disease:
• Family history. Perhaps the most significant risk factor for psoriasis is having a family history of the disease. About one in three people with psoriasis has a close relative who also has the condition.
• Other medical conditions. People with HIV are more likely to develop psoriasis than people with healthy immune systems are. Children and young adults with recurring infections, particularly strep throat, also may be at increased risk.
• Stress. Because stress can impact your immune system, high stress levels may increase your risk of psoriasis.
• Obesity. Excess weight increases your risk of inverse psoriasis. In addition, plaques associated with all types of psoriasis often develop in skin creases and folds.
• Smoking. Smoking tobacco not only increases your risk of psoriasis but also may increase the severity of the disease. Smoking may also play a role in the initial development of the disease.

Complications: 

Depending on the type and location of the psoriasis and how widespread the disease is, psoriasis can cause complications. These include:
• Thickened skin and bacterial skin infections caused by scratching in an attempt to relieve severe itching
• Fluid and electrolyte imbalance in the case of severe pustular psoriasis
• Low self-esteem
• Depression
• Stress
• Anxiety
• Social isolation
In addition, psoriatic arthritis can be debilitating and painful, making it difficult to go about your daily routine. Despite medications, psoriatic arthritis can cause erosion in your joints.

Tests
Tests and Diagnosis: 

Your doctor can usually diagnose psoriasis after talking to you about your signs and symptoms and examining your skin. Sometimes, however, your doctor may take a small sample of skin (biopsy) that's examined under a microscope to determine the exact type of psoriasis and to rule out other disorders. A skin biopsy is usually done in a doctor's office using a local anesthetic.
Other disorders that can look like psoriasis include:
• Seborrheic dermatitis. This type of dermatitis is characterized by greasy, scaly, itchy, red skin. It's often found on oily areas of the body, such as the face, upper chest and back. Seborrheic dermatitis can also appear on the scalp as stubborn, itchy dandruff.
• Lichen planus. This is an inflammatory skin condition that appears as rows of itchy, flat-topped bumps (lesions) on the arms and legs.
• Ringworm of the body (tinea corporis). Ringworm is caused by a fungal infection on the top layer of your skin. The infection often causes a red, scaly ring or circle of rash.
• Pityriasis rosea. This common skin condition usually begins as one large spot (herald patch) on your chest, abdomen or back, which then spreads. The rash of pityriasis rosea often extends from the middle of the body, and its shape resembles drooping pine-tree branches.

Medication & Prevention
Treatments and Drugs: 

Psoriasis treatments aim to:
• Interrupt the cycle that causes an increased production of skin cells, thereby reducing inflammation and plaque formation.
• Remove scale and smooth the skin, which is particularly true of topical treatments that you apply to your skin.
Psoriasis treatments can be divided into three main types: topical treatments, light therapy and oral medications.
Topical treatments
Used alone, creams and ointments that you apply to your skin can effectively treat mild to moderate psoriasis. When the disease is more severe, creams are likely to be combined with oral medications or light therapy. Topical psoriasis treatments include:
• Topical corticosteroids. These powerful anti-inflammatory drugs are the most frequently prescribed medications for treating mild to moderate psoriasis. They slow cell turnover by suppressing the immune system, which reduces inflammation and relieves associated itching. Topical corticosteroids range in strength, from mild to very strong. Low-potency corticosteroid ointments are usually recommended for sensitive areas, such as your face or skin folds, and for treating widespread patches of damaged skin. Your doctor may prescribe stronger corticosteroid ointment for small areas of your skin, for persistent plaques on your hands or feet, or when other treatments have failed. Medicated foams and scalp solutions are available to treat psoriasis patches on the scalp. To minimize side effects and to increase effectiveness, topical corticosteroids are generally used on active outbreaks until they're under control.
• Vitamin D analogues. These synthetic forms of vitamin D slow down the growth of skin cells. Calcipotriene (Dovonex) is a prescription cream, ointment or solution containing a vitamin D analogue that may be used alone to treat mild to moderate psoriasis or in combination with other topical medications or phototherapy.
• Anthralin. This medication is believed to normalize DNA activity in skin cells. Anthralin (Dritho-Scalp) can also remove scale, making the skin smoother. However, anthralin stains virtually anything it touches, including skin, clothing, countertops and bedding. For that reason doctors often recommend short-contact treatment — allowing the cream to stay on your skin for a brief time before washing it off. Anthralin is sometimes used in combination with ultraviolet light.
• Topical retinoids. These are commonly used to treat acne and sun-damaged skin, but tazarotene (Tazorac, Avage) was developed specifically for the treatment of psoriasis. Like other vitamin A derivatives, it normalizes DNA activity in skin cells and may decrease inflammation. The most common side effect is skin irritation. It may also increase sensitivity to sunlight, so sunscreen should be applied while using the medication. Although the risk of birth defects is far lower for topical retinoids than for oral retinoids, your doctor needs to know if you're pregnant or intend to become pregnant if you're using tazarotene.
• Calcineurin inhibitors. Currently, calcineurin inhibitors (tacrolimus and pimecrolimus) are only approved for the treatment of atopic dermatitis, but studies have shown them to be effective at times in the treatment of psoriasis as well. Calcineurin inhibitors are thought to disrupt the activation of T cells, which in turn reduces inflammation and plaque buildup. The most common side effect is skin irritation. Calcineurin inhibitors are not recommended for long-term or continuous use because of a potential increased risk of skin cancer and lymphoma. Calcineurin inhibitors are only used with your doctor's input and approval. They may be especially helpful in areas of thin skin, such as around the eyes, where steroid creams or retinoids are too irritating or may cause harmful effects.
• Salicylic acid. Available over-the-counter (nonprescription) and by prescription, salicylic acid promotes sloughing of dead skin cells and reduces scaling. Sometimes it's combined with other medications, such as topical corticosteroids or coal tar, to increase its effectiveness. Salicylic acid is available in medicated shampoos and scalp solutions to treat scalp psoriasis.
• Coal tar. A thick, black byproduct of the manufacture of petroleum products and coal, coal tar is probably the oldest treatment for psoriasis. It reduces scaling, itching and inflammation. Exactly how it works isn't known. Coal tar has few known side effects, but it's messy, stains clothing and bedding, and has a strong odor. Coal tar is available in over-the-counter shampoos, creams and oils.
• Moisturizers. By themselves, moisturizing creams won't heal psoriasis, but they can reduce itching and scaling and can help combat the dryness that results from other therapies. Moisturizers in an ointment base are usually more effective than are lighter creams and lotions.
Light therapy (phototherapy)
As the name suggests, this psoriasis treatment uses natural or artificial ultraviolet light. The simplest and easiest form of phototherapy involves exposing your skin to controlled amounts of natural sunlight. Other forms of light therapy include the use of artificial ultraviolet A (UVA) or ultraviolet B (UVB) light either alone or in combination with medications.
• Sunlight. Ultraviolet (UV) light is a wavelength of light in a range too short for the human eye to see. When exposed to UV rays in sunlight or artificial light, the activated T cells in the skin die. This slows skin cell turnover and reduces scaling and inflammation. Brief, daily exposures to small amounts of sunlight may improve psoriasis, but intense sun exposure can worsen symptoms and cause skin damage. Before beginning a sunlight regimen, ask your doctor about the safest way to use natural sunlight for psoriasis treatment.
• UVB phototherapy. Controlled doses of UVB light from an artificial light source may improve mild to moderate psoriasis symptoms. UVB phototherapy, also called broadband UVB, can be used to treat single patches, widespread psoriasis and psoriasis that resists topical treatments. Short-term side effects may include redness, itching and dry skin. Using a moisturizer may help decrease these side effects.
• Narrowband UVB therapy. A newer type of psoriasis treatment, narrowband UVB therapy may be more effective than broadband UVB treatment. It's usually administered two or three times a week until the skin improves, then maintenance may require only weekly sessions. Narrowband UVB therapy may cause more severe and longer lasting burns, however.
• Photochemotherapy, or psoralen plus ultraviolet A (PUVA). Photochemotherapy involves taking a light-sensitizing medication (psoralen) before exposure to UVA light. UVA light penetrates deeper into the skin than does UVB light, and psoralen makes the skin more responsive to UVA exposure. This more aggressive treatment consistently improves skin and is often used for more severe cases of psoriasis. PUVA involves two or three treatments a week for a prescribed number of weeks. Short-term side effects include nausea, headache, burning and itching. Long-term side effects include dry and wrinkled skin, freckles and increased risk of skin cancer, including melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.
• Excimer laser. This form of light therapy, used for mild to moderate psoriasis, treats only the involved skin. A controlled beam of UVB light of a specific wavelength is directed to the psoriasis plaques to control scaling and inflammation. Healthy skin surrounding the patches isn't harmed. Excimer laser therapy requires fewer sessions than does traditional phototherapy because more powerful UVB light is used. Side effects can include redness and blistering.
• Combination light therapy. Combining UV light with other treatments such as retinoids frequently improves phototherapy's effectiveness. Combination therapies are often used after other phototherapy options are ineffective. Some doctors give UVB treatment in conjunction with coal tar, called the Goeckerman treatment. The two therapies together are more effective than either alone because coal tar makes skin more receptive to UVB light. Another method, the Ingram regimen, combines UVB therapy with a coal tar bath and an anthralin-salicylic acid paste that's left on your skin for several hours or overnight.
Oral or injected medications
If you have severe psoriasis or it's resistant to other types of treatment, your doctor may prescribe oral or injected drugs. Because of severe side effects, some of these medications are used for just brief periods of time and may be alternated with other forms of treatment.
• Retinoids. Related to vitamin A, this group of drugs may reduce the production of skin cells if you have severe psoriasis that doesn't respond to other therapies. Signs and symptoms usually return once therapy is discontinued, however. Side effects may include dryness of the skin and mucous membranes, itching and hair loss. And because retinoids such as acitretin (Soriatane) can cause severe birth defects, women must avoid pregnancy for at least three years after taking the medication.
• Methotrexate. Taken orally, methotrexate helps psoriasis by decreasing the production of skin cells and suppressing inflammation. It may also slow the progression of psoriatic arthritis in some people. Methotrexate is generally well tolerated in low doses, but may cause upset stomach, loss of appetite and fatigue. When used for long periods it can cause a number of serious side effects, including severe liver damage and decreased production of red and white blood cells and platelets.
• Cyclosporine. Cyclosporine suppresses the immune system and is similar to methotrexate in effectiveness. Like other immunosuppressant drugs, cyclosporine increases your risk of infection and other health problems, including cancer. Cyclosporine also makes you more susceptible to kidney problems and high blood pressure — the risk increases with higher dosages and long-term therapy.
• Hydroxyurea. This medication isn't as effective as cyclosporine or methotrexate, but unlike the stronger drugs it can be combined with phototherapy. Possible side effects include anemia and a decrease in white blood cells and platelets. It should not be taken by women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
• Immunomodulator drugs (biologics). Several immunomodulator drugs are approved for the treatment of moderate to severe psoriasis. They include alefacept (Amevive), etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (Remicade) and ustekinumab (Stelara). These drugs are given by intravenous infusion, intramuscular injection or subcutaneous injection and are usually used for people who have failed to respond to traditional therapy or who have associated psoriatic arthritis. Biologics work by blocking interactions between certain immune system cells. Although they're derived from natural sources rather than chemical ones, they must be used with caution because they have strong effects on the immune system and may cause life-threatening infections.
Treatment considerations
Although doctors choose treatments based on the type and severity of psoriasis and the areas of skin affected, the traditional approach is to start with the mildest treatments — topical creams and ultraviolet light therapy (phototherapy) — and then progress to stronger ones if necessary. The goal is to find the most effective way to slow cell turnover with the fewest possible side effects.
In spite of a wide range of options, effective treatment of psoriasis can be challenging. The disease is unpredictable, going through cycles of improvement and worsening seemingly at random. Effects of psoriasis treatments also can be unpredictable; what works well for one person might be ineffective for someone else. Your skin can also become resistant to various treatments over time, and the most potent psoriasis treatments can have serious side effects.
Talk to your doctor about your options, especially if you're not improving after using a particular treatment or if you're experiencing uncomfortable side effects. He or she can adjust your treatment plan or modify your approach to ensure the best possible control of your symptoms.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies: 

Although self-help measures won't cure psoriasis, they may help improve the appearance and feel of damaged skin. These measures may benefit you:
• Take daily baths. Bathing daily helps remove scales and calm inflamed skin. Add bath oil, colloidal oatmeal, Epsom salts or Dead Sea salts to the water and soak for at least 15 minutes. Avoid hot water and harsh soaps, which can worsen symptoms. Instead, use lukewarm water and mild soaps that have added oils and fats.
• Use moisturizer. Blot your skin after bathing, then immediately apply a heavy, ointment-based moisturizer while your skin is still moist. For very dry skin, oils may be preferable — they have more staying power than creams or lotions do and are more effective at preventing water from evaporating from your skin. During cold, dry weather, you may need to apply a moisturizer several times a day.
• Cover the affected areas overnight. To help improve redness and scaling, apply an ointment-based moisturizer to your skin and wrap with plastic wrap overnight. In the morning, remove the covering and wash away the scales with a bath or a shower.
• Expose your skin to small amounts of sunlight. A controlled amount of sunlight can significantly improve lesions, but too much sun can trigger or worsen outbreaks and increase the risk of skin cancer. If you sunbathe, it's best to try short sessions three or more times a week. Keep a record of when and how long you're in the sun to help avoid overexposure. And be sure to protect healthy skin with a sunscreen of at least 15 SPF, paying careful attention to your ears, hands and face. Before beginning any sunbathing program, ask your doctor about the best way to use natural sunlight to treat your skin.
• Apply medicated cream or ointment. Apply an over-the-counter cream or ointment containing hydrocortisone or salicylic acid to reduce itching and scaling. If you have scalp psoriasis, try a medicated shampoo that contains coal tar. For best results, follow label directions.
• Avoid psoriasis triggers, if possible. Find out what triggers, if any, worsen your psoriasis and take steps to prevent or avoid them. Infections, injuries to your skin, stress, smoking and intense sun exposure can all worsen psoriasis.
• Avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol consumption may decrease the effectiveness of some psoriasis treatments.

Alternative Medicine: 

Many alternative therapies are available to treat psoriasis, including special diets, creams, dietary supplements and herbs. Some people claim these therapies are helpful in treating psoriasis, but most haven't been proved effective.
Some alternative therapies are deemed generally safe, and may be helpful in reducing signs and symptoms such as itching and scaling.
• Aloe vera. Taken from the leaves of the aloe vera plant, aloe extract cream may reduce redness, scaling, itching and inflammation. You may need to use the cream several times a day for a month or more to see any improvements in your skin.
• Capsaicin cream. Applied to the affected areas several times a day, capsaicin cream — an extract from chili peppers — may ease itching and reduce the severity of psoriasis. You may experience a burning sensation with the first few applications. Be sure to wash your hands afterward, so you don't accidentally rub the cream in your eyes.
• Fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil supplements may reduce inflammation associated with psoriasis, although results from studies are mixed. Taking 3 grams or less of fish oil daily is generally recognized as safe and you may find it beneficial.
If you're considering dietary supplements or other alternative therapy to treat psoriasis, consult your doctor. He or she can help you weigh the pros and cons of specific alternative therapies.

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By Anonymous on 17 June 2011