Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease characterized by patches of abnormal skin. These patches are typically red, itchy, and scaly. They may vary in severity from small and localized to complete body coverage. Injury to the skin can trigger psoriatic skin changes at that spot, which is known as Koebner phenomenon. Psoriasis vulgaris (also known as chronic stationary psoriasis or plaque-like psoriasis) is the most common form and affects 85%–90% of people with psoriasis.
The actual cause of Psoriasis is not fully understood, though about a third of people with psoriasis report a family history of the disease, and researchers have identified genetic loci associated with the condition.
There are many different forms of treatment for Psoriasis, depending on the type and severity of the condition. Some common forms of treatment include:
- Topical agents (steroids, barrier creams, lotions, moisturizers and shielding lotions)
- Phototherapy (UV therapy)
- Systemic agents (drugs or treatment that affects the entire body)
- Alternative therapies
In many cases, treatment includes a variegated methodology. Corticosteroids used with phototherapy, barrier creams or even surgery are not uncommon. Moisturizers and lotions are almost always part of the treatment, as the skin tends to dry out easily with psoriasis. Barrier creams are also common, as even minor irritations can exacerbate psoriasis.
While barrier creams form a protective external layer against allergens and irritants, they are frequently wax or petroleum-based and tend to clog the pores, causing a wide range of skin problems with prolonged usage. In recent years, dermatologists have begun recommending shielding lotion as an alternative to barrier creams because a shielding lotion actually bonds with dead skin cells on the outer layer of skin to assist in protecting the skin against allergens and irritants.
Another benefit of a shielding lotion, and why many dermatologists are recommending it as an alternative to skin moisturizers, is that it helps the skin retain natural oils and moisture.
- Bathing daily helps remove scales and calm inflamed skin. Add bath oil, colloidal oatmeal, Epsom salts or Dead Sea salts to the water and soak. Avoid hot water and harsh soaps, which can worsen symptoms; use lukewarm water and mild soaps that have added oils and fats.
- Use shielding lotion. Blot your skin after bathing, then immediately apply a good shielding lotion to keep the skin moisturized. Reapply shielding lotion roughly every 4 hours throughout the day.
- A controlled amount of sunlight can significantly improve lesions, but too much sun can trigger or worsen outbreaks and increase the risk of skin cancer. Before beginning any sunbathing program, ask your doctor about the best way to use natural sunlight to treat your skin. Keep a record of when and how long you’re in the sun to help avoid overexposure. And be sure to protect healthy, unaffected skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen or shielding lotion with SPF. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you’re swimming or perspiring; with a shielding lotion, apply every 4 hours.
- Avoid psoriasis triggers, if possible. Find out what triggers, if any, worsen your psoriasis and take steps to prevent or avoid them. Infections, injuries to your skin, stress, smoking and intense sun exposure can all worsen psoriasis.
- Avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol consumption may decrease the effectiveness of some psoriasis treatments.