For some people, psoriasis may be a minor irritation that is easily dealt with by prompt treatment. For others, it can have a debilitating impact. Psoriasis can be both itchy and uncomfortable. If the skin breaks it can become very sore.
At the Devonshire Clinic in Harley Street, our team of dermatologists can recommend different psoriasis treatment options to help.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a non-infectious skin condition. The most common type, plaque psoriasis, typically causes marks on the skin called lesions. These plaques look like flaky red patches of skin, covered by silvery ‘scales’.
Typically, psoriasis affects the elbows, scalp, knees and lower back, but it can also appear on the face, trunk, legs and arms.
Three types of psoriasis can occur:
- Plaque psoriasis accounts for around 90% of cases.
- Pustular psoriasis causes pus-filled blisters on the skin. These tend to develop on and around the fingers, palms and soles of the feet.
- Erythrodermic psoriasis affects all of the skin on the body leading to intense itching, burning and discomfort.
Psoriasis is an unpredictable condition that comes and goes unexpectedly. It is not uncommon to have periods of intense skin irritation and flare-ups in between periods when the skin is almost clear.
Who is affected by psoriasis?
Psoriasis affects around 2% of the population. Men and women are affected equally.
It does run in families. For example, if a child has one parent with psoriasis, he or she has a higher risk of developing it compared to a child whose parents do not have this condition.
What causes psoriasis?
The body usually replaces old skin cells with new ones every three to four months. In someone with psoriasis, that process speeds up; skin cells are made and replaced every three to seven days. This rapid build-up of skin cells creates the typical skin plaques.
The underlying problem seems to lie with the body’s immune system, which starts to attack its own skin cells for reasons that are not fully understood.
What triggers psoriasis?
Bouts of psoriasis may be triggered by certain events. Trigger events may differ between individuals. A skin injury can cause a flare-up, stress is a common trigger and some medications can make psoriasis worse:
- Lithium – a medication used to treat psychiatric disorders
- Antimalarials – used to protect against malaria when travelling
- Propranolol – a medication used to treat high blood pressure
- Quinidine – a medication used to treat abnormal heart rhythms
- Indomethacin – a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication used to treat arthritis
The impact of psoriasis on quality of life
The red, scaly and flaky patches on the skin often produce embarrassment and problems at school, college or with workmates. Other people may worry that you have an infectious skin problem and avoid being near you.
Flare-ups that occur on visible parts of the skin such as the face, hands and lower legs can be particularly difficult to deal with, causing a loss of self-esteem and confidence.
A small proportion of people with psoriasis also develop joint problems that are associated with their skin disease. This is a type of inflammatory arthritis, similar to rheumatoid arthritis. This can cause debilitating pain and can interfere with movement and daily activities.
Diagnosing and treating psoriasis
Our consultant dermatologists can assess the severity of your psoriasis, distinguishing it from other skin conditions and providing you with a firm diagnosis.
We can then recommend several psoriasis treatment options, depending on your age, the location of the plaques and how widespread and severe they are