Psoriasis is a persistent skin disorder in which there are red, thickened areas with silvery scales, most often on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Severe psoriasis may cover large areas of the body. Dermatologists can help even the most severe cases. Psoriasis is not contagious and cannot be passed from one person to another, but it is most likely to occur in members of the same family.
What causes Psoriasis?
The cause is unknown. However, recent discoveries point to an abnormality in the functioning of special white cells (T-Cells) which trigger inflammation and the immune response in the skin.
Psoriasis can be activated by infections, such as strep throat and by certain medicines (beta blockers, lithium, etc). Flare-ups sometimes occur in the winter as a result of dry skin and lack of sunlight.
Your dermatologist may prescribe medications to apply on the skin which contain cortisone, synthetic vitamin D analogues, retinoids (vitamin A derivative), tar, or anthralin. These may be used in combination with natural sunlight or ultraviolet light. The more severe forms of psoriasis may require oral or injectable medications with or without light treatment.
Types of Treatment
Cortisone is a medication that reduces inflammation. Cortisone creams, ointments, and lotions may clear the skin temporarily and control the condition in many patients.
A variety of non-prescription and prescription shampoos, oils, solutions, foams, and sprays are available. Most contain coal tar or cortisone. Salicylic and lactic acid preparations may be helpful to remove the scale.
Synthetic vitamin D analogues (calcipotriene) are useful for individuals with localized psoriasis and can be used with other treatments.
Prescription vitamin A-related gels, creams (tazarotene), and oral medications (isotrentinoin, acitretin) may be used alone or in combination with topical steroids for treatment of localized psoriasis.
When psoriasis has not responded to other treatments or is widespread, PUVA is effective in approximately 85 percent of cases. Patients are given a drug called psoralen which may be taken orally or applied to the psoriasis and are then exposed to a carefully measured amount of a special form of ultraviolet (UVA) light. The treatment name comes from “psoralen + UVA,” the two factors involved.
This is an oral anti-cancer drug that can produce dramatic clearing of psoriasis when other treatments have failed. Because it can cause side effects, particularly liver disease, regular blood tests are performed.