Psoriasis is a disease which affects the skin and joints. It commonly causes red scaly patches to appear on the skin. The scaly patches caused by psoriasis, called psoriatic plaques, are areas of inflammation and excessive skin production. Skin rapidly accumulates at these sites and takes a silvery-white appearance. Plaques frequently occur on the skin of the elbows and knees, but can affect any area including the scalp and genitals. Psoriasis is hypothesized to be immune-mediated and is not contagious.
Causes & Symptoms :
The disorder is a chronic recurring condition which varies in severity from minor localised patches to complete body coverage. Fingernails and toenails are frequently affected (psoriatic nail dystrophy). Psoriasis can also
cause inflammation of the joints, which is known as psoriatic arthritis. Ten to fifteen percent of people with psoriasis have psoriatic arthritis. The cause of psoriasis is not known, but it is believed to have a genetic component. Several factors are thought to aggravate psoriasis. These include stress, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking. Individuals with psoriasis may suffer from depression and loss of self-esteem. As such, quality of life is an important factor in evaluating the severity of the disease. There are many treatments available but because of its chronic recurrent nature psoriasis is a challenge to treat.
There can be substantial variation between individuals in the effectiveness of specific psoriasis treatments. Because of this, dermatologists often use a trial-and-error approach to finding the most appropriate treatment for their patient. The decision to employ a particular treatment is based on the type of psoriasis, its location, extent and severity. The patient’s age, gender, quality of life, comorbidities, and attitude toward risks associated with the treatment are also taken into consideration.
Bath solutions and moisturizers help sooth affected skin and reduce the dryness which accompanies the build-up of skin on psoriatic plaques. Medicated creams and ointments applied directly to psoriatic plaques can help reduce inflammation, remove built-up scale, reduce skin turn over, and clear affected skin of plaques. Ointment and creams containing coal tar (no longer available on prescription in the UK) , dithranol (anthralin), corticosteroids, vitamin D3 analogues (for example, calcipotriol), and retinoids are routinely used. The mechanism of action of each is probably different but they all help to normalise skin cell production and reduce inflammation. Activated vitamin D and its analogues are highly effective inhibitors of skin cell proliferation.
It has long been recognised that daily, short, non-burning exposure to sunlight helped to clear or improve psoriasis. Niels Finsen was the first physician to investigate the therapeutic effects of sunlight scientifically and to use sunlight in clinical practice. This became known as phototherapy. Sunlight contains many different wavelengths of light. It was during the early part of the 20th century that it was recognised that for psoriasis the therapeutic property of sunlight was due to the wavelengths classified as ultraviolet (UV) light.
Psoralen and ultraviolet A phototherapy (PUVA) combines the oral or topical administration of psoralen with exposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) light. Precisely how PUVA works is not known. The mechanism of action probably involves activation of psoralen by UVA light which inhibits the abnormally rapid production of the cells in psoriatic skin. There are multiple mechanisms of action associated with PUVA, including effects on the skin immune system.
Psoriasis which is resistant to topical treatment and phototherapy is treated by medications that are taken internally by pill or injection. This is called systemic treatment. Patients undergoing systemic treatment are required to have regular blood and liver function tests because of the toxicity of the medication. Pregnancy must be avoided for the majority of these treatments. Most people experience a recurrence of psoriasis after systemic treatment is discontinued.