Living with a condition like psoriasis can have a devastating effect on the everyday lives of its many thousands of sufferers. Psoriasis is a common skin condition that affects up to 3% of the population in the UK, creating not just physical but psychological problems.
One of the world’s first studies on ‘Happiness’ found that those having to deal with the problem often find themselves hit hard with mental health issues. Many patients feel embarrassed at having visible plaques and this can lead to them withdrawing from social situations and becoming depressed. Psychological and emotional problems can be further increased if the symptoms result in the patient leaving their job.
Whilst there is no cure, it can be managed if the right treatment is sought and advice followed. We will look at the treatment options shortly but first…….
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis affects the immune system and can affect the body in many ways causing not just skin but also joint problems. The different types of psoriasis are described in our earlier article which you can read by clicking on the link here: Understanding psoriasis.
Normally the body replaces our skin cells every 21 days but when you have psoriasis, this takes place much faster. It is not clear what triggers this to occur. As the skin cells accumulate, they form raised plaques on the skin which can be red, flaky and itchy. It is not limited to just one part of the body and can be found literally anywhere.
It can target men and women with a definite rise in the condition when we hit around 50 years of age. As well as causing skin problems, it can target joints, causing a type of arthritis. You might find yourself more prone to psoriasis if it runs in the family or if you are unusually stressed, anxious, have injured your skin or are dealing with hormonal changes, infections or certain medications.
Whilst psoriasis cannot be completely cured, it can be managed very well; it may just take time finding out which treatment works best for you, this often being accomplished via a system of trial and error.
What are the different types of treatment for psoriasis?
- Topical treatments – these are creams and ointments which are applied to the skin. The most common one is a corticosteroid which helps to slow down the production of skin cells. This results in less inflammation and itching. Other topical treatments include coal tar, salicyclic acid, vitamin D analogues, topical retinoids, emollients, moisturisers such as coconut oil and calcineurin inhibitors. Some people find that these types of treatment are sufficient to control their condition although it may take up to six weeks before you notice any significant benefit.
- Phototherapy – this is when your skin is exposed to certain types of ultraviolet light. This type of therapy can be given if other treatments haven’t worked and is administered in hospitals or specialist centres.
- Systemic treatments – this means oral or injected medications. As these come with possible side effects, the options and risks should be considered and discussed with your doctor.
Some people worry when they see psoriasis, thinking that it is contagious and will spread all over the body or infect others. This is not the case at all as it cannot be passed from one person to another and will not necessarily spread. It affects each person differently so looking at other people’s situations does not necessarily mean that you will be affected in the same way.
When you are seen by a skin specialist, they will look at two things; the physical and the psychological aspects of the condition. With this in mind, they can then recommend appropriate treatments. The emotional impact is not directly related to the physical severity so if your case is a particularly bad one this does not necessarily mean that you will automatically suffer psychologically.
Those suffering with psoriasis are always advised to see their GP who can refer the case to a consultant if required. The Psoriasis Association can also provide plenty of free advice and information and a little bit of research online will show ways that other sufferers deal with the condition.
Once you find your own way of dealing with your psoriasis, being one that your body responds to in the most positive way, you can get your psoriasis under control and live a very happy life in spite of it.
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