Psoriasis is a skin disorder stemming from an autoimmune reaction, thus rather than a skin disease, it is actually a non-contagious autoimmune disease.
While the cause and cure isn’t known, researchers are working hard to understand the disease, provide treatments, and help those with psoriasis learn to manage the disease without shame.
What is Psoriasis?
For unknown reasons, certain cells in psoriasis patients grow much faster than a normal cell. T cells, which are normally responsible for finding and fighting foreign bodies, like viruses, go after healthy skin cells instead. Instead of the normal occurance of a buildup of healthy cells to get rid of bacteria or heal a wound, a buildup of skin cells occurs. WIth so many cells reproducing so quickly, dead cells can’t fall off naturally.
This results in large scaly, red patches that can be itchy, painful, and embarrassing. However, psoriasis is one of the most common autoimmune disorder in the United States, with more than 7.5 million Americans dealing with this disease. If you have psoriasis, you aren’t fighting alone.
Unfortunately psoriasis is a chronic disease, which means that most people with it will be fighting this build up their entire lives. Although it may not develop until later in life, it generally appears in late adolescence to early adulthood. It may fluxuate between periods of better and worse, but ultimately, it’s a lifelong battle. Several things are suspected to be psoriasis triggers, meaning they tend to induce periods of skin overgrowth.
- Bad habits: Smoking and excessive alcohol use may cause flare ups.
- Stress: The more stressed out you are, the worse your body feels. As a result, it can’t fight off everything, or it goes into overdrive to fight off the illness it’s more subject to. Stressing out the mind stresses out the body, which leads to more psoriasis episodes.
- Skin injury and infection: Damage to the skin means your T cells and other white blood cells need to be working on the surface. Unfortunately, when they’re already working overtime, instead of gently and slowly healing, the result is psoriasis in action.
- Cold weather: Skin tends to be less healthy in cold weather; it gets dried out, sore, and make even crack from the dryness, which makes it easier for your psoriasis to take over.
- Medicines: Some medicines used for bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, and other drugs may make psoriasis worse. If you have psoriasis, talk to your doctor before starting any new medication.
Although there is no cure for psoriasis, it is possible to deal with it. Eating well, keeping stress managed, and avoiding other psoriasis triggers can provide preventative measures. Medications that may help the actual psoriasis itself include topical medications, light therapy, and other, varied medications.
There are a variety of creams that contain corticosteroids, anthralin, calcineurin inhibitors, vitamin D analgoues, and many other options. Applied directly to the skin, these topical medications work in different ways to try to bring psoriasis to heel. Phototherapy uses natural sunlight and artificial light to provide the body with brief, controlled amounts that research has found to be helpful.
Too much light, especially sunlight that ends in a sunburn, can be damaging instead. Other medications may be used alternatingly to suppress the immune system and slow down cell growth, among other things.
New medications are currently being researched to try to further help the psoriasis community. The NPF even offers patients the opportunity to participate in clinic trials and take a hand in their own treatment.