Psoriasis is an auto-immune disease that has affected over 100 million people around the world. It is a skin disease whose cause still remains unknown. The body starts producing new skin cells faster than usual (in days rather than weeks) which leads to a rapid, scale-like buildup on the surface of the skin.
The scales are usually white-silver in color and are often There are several types of psoriasis of which plaque psoriasis is the most common. It is characterized by raised patches of red skin covered with white buildup. It is usually found around the knees, elbows, lower back, and scalp.
Symptoms Of Plaque Psoriasis
The symptoms of plaque psoriasis
are the same as other forms of psoriasis. The symptoms, thick skins with silver-white buildup, can turn up anywhere including ears, lips, hands, nails, skin folds, mouth, eyelids, feet, and even scalp. It can be on a small patch of skin or cover large patches, increasing the discomfort.
The inflamed red patches turn scaly, making the skin prone to cracking and eventually bleeding. Dryness is another characteristic trait of these patches. Thickening and pitting are common when nails (both fingernails and toenails) are affected by psoriasis.
It is estimated that over 80% of psoriasis patients suffer from plaque psoriasis. A dermatologist can easily recognize the symptoms, given its prevalence. In most cases, a simple discussion about family medical history and symptoms of psoriasis is enough to determine the disease. However, in some instances, the doctor can order a biopsy as well.
Treatment Of Plaque Psoriasis
There is no cure for psoriasis. However, there are various ways in which doctors seek to reduce the number of flare-ups. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, your doctor will choose one of the following options or combinations:
1. Topical Medicines
Topical medication or topical creams/ointments are usually the first options, especially if there are only a few plaques. The cream is applied directly on the affected area to decrease inflammation and disrupt the overproduction of skin cells to an extent. Such creams usually contain anthralin, Vitamins A and D and corticosteroids.
Some emollients have to be applied after a bath or shower to maintain optimum moisture in the affected area.
2. Light Therapy
Light therapy is employed when the flare-ups are widespread, affecting a large expanse of skin. It uses UV light to provide relief to the symptoms. You can also buy the equipment for home use after consulting with your doctor. Another issue that needs to be addressed is sunlight. If UV light brings relief, then you can also step out in the sun.
However, limit your time outside since it is well known that sunlight can increase the risk of skin cancer. Use a sunscreen when going out during the day.
3. Biologic Drugs
As psoriasis is an auto-immune disease, some treatments
also include specific immuno-suppressants known as biologic drugs. They are either given through an injection or are introduced directly into the bloodstream through a vein. They have a very specific target - usually an immune cell or inflammation-causing protein.
They provide relief from symptoms and can help with discomfort during flare-ups. However, as they suppress some immune function, your ability to fight infections and diseases will also be reduced. Some examples include ustekinumab, infliximab, secukinumab, etanercept, and adalimumab.
4. Systemic Drugs
Another type of immuno-suppressant drugs helps in managing severe forms of plaque psoriasis. They suppress the immune system and slow down the growth of skin cells. However, apart from vulnerability to certain diseases, they also have side effects like liver problems, risk of skin cancer, depression, and aggressiveness.
Systemic drugs can be injected or ingested, as prescribed by the doctor. Some examples are methotrexate, cyclosporine, and acitretin.
5. Over The Counter Medicines
There are a number of OTC medicines, especially creams. Some home remedies like jojoba, capsaicin, zinc pyrithione can help remove scales and soothe the itch. Coal tar and salicylic acid are also approved for the treatment of psoriasis.
The cause of plaque psoriasis is unknown. According to researchers, 10% of the people around the world are passed down the genes that can lead to psoriasis, but only 3% of those actually develop the condition. And while there is no cure, the flare-ups can be managed with proper medical intervention.