What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a common T-cell-mediated autoimmune, persistent skin disorder, characterized by circumscribed patches of raised, thickened, red bumps covered with silvery-white, flaking scales. Naturally in the deepest layer of skin, there are new skin cells continuously being formed. From there, they ascend to the epidermal layer where dead surface cells are shed in a 28-day-process. In areas affected by psoriasis, however, the problem is new cells only need three to four days to reach the epidermal surface, leading to an increased epidermal cell turnover with marked thickening which causes the typical scaly plaques.

In almost all cases, the primary cause is unspecified. It is believed that activated T lymphocytes produce chemical messengers that stimulate abnormal growth of keratinocytes and dermal blood vessels. Other factors may be associated with heredity. Flare-ups may be elicited by infection, skin trauma and injury, stress, certain medications, corticosteroid withdrawal, alcohol and cold temperature and various environmental factors.

There is no known way to prevent psoriasis, and there is no cure either. The primary goal of treatment is to suppress the signs and symptoms of the disease. The treatment regimen depends on the severity of the condition as well as the patient’s age, history, compliance to therapy, and sex.

Exposure to sunlight improves many individuals with the condition. Maintaining the skin soft and well moisturized is effective. Application of heavy moisturizing creams can prevent skin dehydration especially when applied straight away after bathing. Never use irritating cosmetics and soaps. Do no scratching or skin rubbing or any aggressive action which can cause bleeding and irritation. Bath soaks with coal tar can eliminate and trim down the plaques. A physician-directed light therapy may be necessary.

The three fundamental modes of treatments for psoriasis are topical therapy, phototherapy and systemic therapy; all these therapies may well be used unaccompanied or in combination. Under topical therapy, the major remedies are corticosteroids, vitamin D-3 derivatives, coal tar and retinoids. In cases where psoriasis is extensive, as characterized by more itchy patches than can simply be counted, then UV-B light and PUVA are used. The third treatment mode is systemic therapy which includes drugs that are usually established after both topical treatment and light therapy have become unsuccessful.



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