What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a disease that affects over 7 million people in the United States. It is a common chronic, inflammatory disease of the immune system and involves the skin and joints. Psoriasis occurs when the body sends faulty signals which tell the skin cells to grow too rapidly. The body does not shed these extra cells, so they pile onto the surface of the skin causing patches of red, raised skin which becomes scaly and itchy. Psoriasis can appear on the scalp, hands, feet, knees, and elbows. Patients suffering from psoriasis often report that they have times that it flares up, followed by times that it is less severe. Fortunately, the condition is not contagious.
What Type of Treatments Are Available?
The goal of treatments for psoriasis is to find the most effective way to slow cell turnover with the fewest possible side effects. These treatments are intended to reduce inflammation and clear the skin as well. There are three basic types of treatments available.
- Topical Treatments. Topical treatments include creams and ointments that are applied to the skin to treat mild to moderate psoriasis. These can include simple moisturizers which are applied twice daily to reduce itching, scaling, and dryness. Other topical treatments can contain salicylic acid, which promotes the sloughing off of dead skin cells. Another type of topical treatment involves corticosteroids, which are prescription strength and can only be used for short periods of time during flare-ups.
- Light Therapy. Light therapy uses natural and artificial ultraviolet light exposure to UV rays to slow skin cell turnover, reduce scaling, and to decrease inflammation. UVB therapy uses controlled doses of UVB rays for single, stubborn patches of psoriasis. The key to light therapy is the control that the physicians use over the amount of UVA or UVB rays to which a person is exposed. Talk to your dermatologist about getting outdoors on your own for this light exposure for important facts about sunscreen and amounts of time to spend in the sun.