People often spend years trying to combat psoriasis on their own before seeking the guidance of a board-certified dermatologist. Sometimes this is because they’ve heard that there is no cure for the condition, so they reason that nothing can be done. While it is true that psoriasis cannot be cured, it is equally true that it can be successfully managed. Doing so typically begins with a visit to a board-certified dermatologist like the practitioners at Shelby Dermatology and Aesthetic Dermatology.
What Is Psoriasis?
While it is often referred to as a skin disorder, the causes of psoriasis go much deeper than that. In fact, this condition actually indicates a problem with the body’s immune system. Scientists aren’t sure what triggers the condition, but people who have it suffer from an overactive immune system. This overactivity causes the rapid production of skin cells and concurrent inflammation. A person with a normal immune system will have new skin cells pushed to the surface approximately every 28 to 30 days. Someone with an overactive immune system will have new skin cells pushed to the surface every three or four days.
Unfortunately, the body just isn’t designed to shed old skin cells fast enough to keep up with this rate of production. The old skin cells get pushed up, but don’t slough away. The result is raised, red, scaly patches that are often referred to as plaques. These plaques can be intensely itchy, which means a great deal of discomfort for the sufferer.
What Causes Psoriasis?
Researchers still aren’t entirely certain what causes this condition. There is a genetic element, meaning that people who have relatives with this ailment are more likely to be diagnosed themselves. As has already been noted, an overactive immune system also plays a key role.
However, there is an additional, environmental element to a psoriasis flare up. These can vary quite a bit from one individual to the next, which makes it imperative for people to identify their “triggers.” Frequently, this is done with the guidance of a board-certified dermatologist.
Common Psoriasis Triggers
Stress can be a major factor when it comes to flare ups. Accordingly, many people with this condition are careful to learn new stress management and reduction techniques. Practices like deep breathing, yoga and meditation have helped many people improve the condition of their skin.
Some people experience flare ups when their skin receives an injury like a cut or a burn. Even a bug bite or too much sun exposure can cause problems. Infections like strep throat may also present an issue. Consequently, people who have been diagnosed with this condition must take care not to injure their skin. Wearing insect repellant and sunscreen is a must as is eating a healthy diet, taking nutritional supplements and avoiding unnecessary exposure to germs and bacteria.
Certain prescription medications have similarly been known to cause flare ups. Antimalarials, high blood pressure medicines and pills for heart conditions have all been responsible for worsening skin condition. If you are taking any prescription medications, it is important to discuss these with your dermatologist, as they may be affecting the health of your skin.
Skin Care for Psoriasis
Proper skin care techniques are essential for people with this condition. Winter may be an especially trying time as dropping temperatures and icy winds put skin to the ultimate test. Many people take hotter showers in the colder season too. They think it will be soothing, and for a short time it may be. However, the bad effects of a too-hot shower can be long lasting.
For someone with psoriasis, a hot shower is an extremely bad idea. When water is too hot, it strips the skin of essential oils that protect it from drying out. The result is skin that’s drier than ever, and improved chances for a major, itchy flare up.
Lukewarm showers are the key to healthier skin in the winter and in other seasons as well. Another important factor is the routine use of a rich moisturizer. A thicker, oilier lotion will generally produce the best results because they are better at trapping moisture under the surface of the skin. Some moisturizers can also help to remove scales when they are applied and the skin is then wrapped with plastic wrap for a few hours. Ask a board-certified dermatologist to learn more.
Treatments for Psoriasis
You can work with a board-certified dermatologist to learn how to control your symptoms. Topical treatments and oral medications can help you manage the condition. These, in combination with your efforts to protect and nourish your skin, can significantly minimize your flare ups. Speak with a board-certified dermatologist at Shelby Dermatology or Aesthetic Dermatology to learn more.