Psoriasis is a non-contagious skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin. These patches can occur anywhere on the body, but are most commonly found on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back. The patches are typically dry and itchy and tend to come and go.
Psoriasis causes skin cells to grow rapidly and pile up. The immune system is thought to cause this, while certain triggers can also cause flare ups. In people who have psoriasis, the cells normally responsible in fighting germs mistakenly start to attack healthy skin cells.
Genetics is likely to be a factor, in that you are more likely to have psoriasis if you have a close family member with the condition. Research so far doesn’t clearly show exactly how genetics plays a role.
Common triggers tend to start or worsen psoriasis. These can include cuts and scrapes to the skin, insect bites or sunburn. Smoking, stress and excessive alcohol intake, hormonal changes, throat infections and certain medications can all play a role, as can a vitamin D deficiency. Smoking can also increase the severity of this skin condition.
If you think you may have psoriasis you are likely to be treated by your GP, or for more severe symptoms, a dermatologist. Topical creams are usually used for milder symptoms. It may take up to six weeks for these creams to have an effect. Dry, itchy skin will respond well to beingregularly moisturised.
Scalp psoriasis can be treated with shampoos and ointments. Its important not to scratch your scalp as research shows a link between hair loss and scalp itching. Repeatedly scratching an itchy scalp can damage hair follicles.
Steroid creams help to reduce inflammation, slowing the production of skin cells and reducing itching. Beware of overusing of strong steroid creams as they can thin the skin over time. Phototherapy can also be used and exposes skin to ultraviolet light which slows down the production of skin cells. Sessions take place for up to eight weeks and involve hospital visits a few times a week.
Please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/psoriasis for further reading.