Psoriasis plagues as many as 7.5 million Americans according to psoriasis.org. The disease stems from genetic traits that send signals to grow skin cells at an increased rate. The cells build up and crust over, ceasing normal healthy growth. The plaques formed by psoriasis are often irritated, painful and ugly, leaving the person bearing the disease to experience not only physical pain, but feelings of insecurity, embarrassment and sadness. Cases range from mild to moderate to severe, and the severity of cases can fluctuate depending on social and environmental factors. A multitude of factors such as diet, alcohol intake, stress and the onset of other diseases in addition to a genetic predisposition can cause a person to suffer psoriasis outbreaks. And much like other diseases, one may carry the genetic makeup and never display physical symptoms and unknowingly pass the disease onto offspring.
The good news for psoriasis sufferers is that treatment options are plenty and one of the most common, phototherapy, is available for free year-round in the desert. Phototherapy is often the first line of treatment. While some physicians may recommend special UV lamps, others may recommend a daily 20 minute dose of natural sunlight. Laser treatments have the ability to deliver precise rays to a targeted area and are gaining popularity. The downside to laser applications is the high cost of treatment and the fact that most insurance companies will not cover such costs.
Over the counter creams, lotions, ointments and shampoos are typically the second stage of defense for most mild to moderate sufferers. Many of these treatments include coal tar solutions, corticosteroids and vitamin D derived drugs.
More recently developed biological drugs such as Stelara, Humira and Embrel are utilized for severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis cases. These drugs are expensive and require regular injections of the medication coupled with monthly blood work to monitor for side-effects. Patients report huge improvements from these medications despite the risks involved.
Many patients find alternative treatments to be successful, even more so when coupled with conventional western medicine. Since psoriasis stems from a hyperactive immune system, activities that calm and center your being are helpful. Yoga, meditation, homeopathic and Chinese medicine practices should not be overlooked as treatment tools.
Patients suffering from psoriasis are likely to suffer from related diseases such as psoriatic arthritis, depression and cancer. Many common treatments include small print warnings stating use may increase the risk of cancer. And it makes sense that in a world with such an emphasis on physical beauty, psoriasis patients frequently suffer from depression. A disease that causes ugly scaly patches of painful irritated skin can make the most optimistic person feel shy and insecure about their appearance. Many people with psoriasis struggle with outbreaks throughout their entire lifetime, constantly trying to camouflage crusty patches of skin, flaking scalps, bleeding plaques and even the loss of fingernails and toenails. Psoriasis’s negative impact on quality of life often leaves sufferers with situational depression.
If you or a loved one is suffering with psoriasis, talk to your doctor. There are support groups available online full of useful information such as talkpsoriasis.org and psoriasis.com which offer valuable tips and strategies for how to better live with this chronic condition.