Psoriasis (sore-EYE-ah-sis) is a skin disorder that appears as patches on the neck, back, elbows, knuckles, and scalp of the affected individual.
Psoriasis occurs as a result of an accelerated multiplication of the skin cells, at a pace of days instead of weeks. This is manifested on the skin as round or oval shaped dry, scaly, itchy, and flaky lesions called plaques.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 2 percent of people living in the United States are afflicted with this condition.
Causes of and Risk Factors for Psoriasis
Psoriasis stems from an imbalance in the immune system, which entails the destruction of healthy cells of the body by its own immune system. This leads to a change in the life cycle of skin cells. As there is no sloughing off of the dead skin cells, the excess skin cells accumulate as a thick layer on top.
The National Psoriasis Foundation states that psoriasis can develop at any age, but it mostly develops between the ages of 15 and 35. Almost 10–15 percent of people with psoriasis acquire it before the age of 10.
Psoriasis can affect almost anyone irrespective of race, age, or sex. The condition is often triggered by factors such as:
- Dry skin
- Alcohol consumption
- Environmental triggers
- Viral and bacterial infections, particularly strep throat, bronchitis, or tonsillitis
- Medications such as beta-blockers, malarial preventives, lithium, and ibuprofen
Certain factors can increase your risk of developing the disease. These include:
- Genetic predisposition (35 percent of people with psoriasis had one or more family members affected with the disease)
- Smoking tobacco
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Metabolic syndromes such as celiac disease
Types of Psoriasis
Psoriasis can be categorized into different types:
- Plaque psoriasis is characterized by raised painful, itchy plaques covered by a pile of silvery-white dead skin cells. These patches are often restricted to the scalp, knees, lower back, and elbows.
- Guttate psoriasis is observed in young adults and children as pink lesions that appear like small droplets.
- Inverse psoriasis affects the folds of the skin in and around the genital area, behind the knee, and underneath the breasts, and in the arms. It is manifested as smooth red-colored shiny lesions.
- Pustular psoriasis mostly affects the hands or feet and is marked by the presence of whitish pustules. These pustules are surrounded by a red patch and filled with white blood cells. Thus, it is noninfectious and noncontagious.
- Erythrodermic psoriasis is a severe form of the disease that takes gigantic proportions and leads to a widespread redness almost all over the body. It is a rare form that can cause intense pain and itching, causing the skin to break away in sheets.
Signs and Symptoms of Psoriasis
The piling up of skin cells one above the other appears as patches on the skin, which is characterized by redness and irritation and often manifests as:
- Thick, flaky, silvery-white patches
- Elevated red patches on the skin
- Itching or burning sensation
- Swelling and bleeding in the skin around the joints
Your dermatologist can diagnose your case by mainly looking at your skin, scalp, and nails. The presence of reddish well-demarcated silvery scales on these parts or anywhere else on the body is a distinguishing feature of psoriasis.
Your doctor might recommend a skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
Standard Treatment for Psoriasis
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, your dermatologist will plan your treatment depending on the type and severity of the condition.
The main lines of treatment adopted by dermatologists include:
- Topical therapy: It entails the use of topical creams, gels, or ointments on the affected skin to treat mild to moderate forms of the condition.
- Phototherapy: It involves exposing the affected skin to either natural or artificial ultraviolet light under medical supervision or as medically advised.
- Systemic therapy: It is followed in severe cases of psoriasis. Here, the patients are injected with prescribed drugs such as methotrexate and retinoids to treat the symptoms of psoriasis. This therapy is often laden with side effects.
Natural Remedies to Help Psoriasis
Living with psoriasis is full of discomfort. The treatment methods cannot wipe it out of your system but can effectively curtail the symptoms and better your condition.
Aside from the medical treatment, you can also employ some natural and effective home remedies to control the symptoms and prevent a flare-up of the disorder.
- Consult with your doctor before you take any herbal remedies.
- Avoid using them if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or on medication or you have conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
- Stop using the remedy immediately if you experience side effects and seek professional help.
Outlined below are some of the remedies you can try to relieve psoriasis symptoms.
1. Soak Your Skin in an Oatmeal Bath
Finely ground oats suspended in a liquid medium such as a gel, milk, or water is referred to as colloidal oatmeal. Colloidal oatmeal is a natural fix to several skin conditions such as dry skin, eczema, and psoriasis.
It gets an advantage as a skin care remedy because of its ease of application and quick absorption by the skin. It can help hydrate and soothe your skin by relieving itching and inflammation.
Even the National Psoriasis Foundation swears by the effectiveness of oats as a treatment of psoriasis.
A 2010 study highlights the efficacy of colloidal oatmeal for the treatment of psoriasis.
Moreover, recent studies conducted in 2018 highlighted the effectiveness of colloidal oatmeal for dry skin and psoriasis.
- Fill your bathtub with warm water and thoroughly mix 1 cup of finely powdered oatmeal. Soak yourself in this bath for 15 to 20 minutes daily during flare-ups. Rinse with lukewarm water after getting out of the bath. Pat your skin dry and generously apply moisturizer all over your body.
- Alternatively, you can wrap 2 fistfuls of oats in a muslin cloth and place it in your bathtub. Run hot water over it. Add cold water to bring the temperature to normal and squeeze the wrapped oats until the water turns milky. Discard this bag after every use.
2. Apply an Apple Cider Vinegar Compress
Apple cider vinegar has been used as a disinfectant since ages.
As stated by the National Psoriasis Foundation, apple cider vinegar may help alleviate the itchy feeling and irritation associated with psoriasis.
- Mix equal parts of apple cider vinegar and water. Apply this solution only on unbroken skin for 10 minutes, then rinse it off. Rinse it off immediately if irritation occurs.
- Alternatively, mix together apple cider vinegar and lukewarm water in the ratio of 1:3. Soak a washcloth in this solution and use it as a compress for about a few minutes. Repeat several times a day during flare-ups.
Note: Do not use apple cider vinegar on cracked and bleeding skin.
3. Use Cayenne Pepper Topical Creams
You can treat your psoriasis malady with red hot cayenne pepper. The main compound in cayenne pepper, capsaicin, gives it its anti-inflammatory properties.
A 2010 study reported that capsaicin may help reduce the symptoms of psoriasis such as inflammation, pain, redness, and scaling.
You can purchase capsaicin-containing topical creams and apply them on the affected areas as directed on the pack.
Caution: Avoid applying topical capsaicin creams on the face. Perform a patch test before application to check if you are allergic to it. Do not use it if it causes a burning sensation. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap every time you use a topical capsaicin cream.
4. Try Garlic Oil-Aloe Vera Mix
Garlic boasts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps inhibit the activity of lipoxygenase, an enzyme that causes the inflammation associated with psoriasis. Additionally, it is also an antimicrobial agent and helps prevent infection.
A study conducted in 2011 suggested the external application of garlic as an effective remedy against psoriasis. The bioactive compounds in garlic can help prevent psoriasis outbreak.
- Mix garlic oil and aloe vera gel in equal amounts. Apply the mixture on the affected area. Let it sit for 15 minutes, and then wash it off.
- Eat 2–3 garlic cloves every day. You can take them along with milk or as a supplement upon your doctor’s approval.
5. Prepare a DIY Lotion with Olive Oil
Olive oil is an excellent moisturizer and can help deal with the flaking and scaling of psoriasis.
Its anti-inflammatory properties can help prevent psoriasis flare-ups.
A 2018 study reported that the polyphenols in extra-virgin olive oil can help treat immune disorders such as psoriasis due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Apply lukewarm olive oil generously on the affected area to help overcome the dryness related to psoriasis.
- Alternatively, you can make a lotion:
- Add 1 teaspoon each of honey, olive oil, and beeswax in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Warm this mixture in the microwave until the beeswax melts.
- Stir it to mix. Let it cool.
- Apply it on the affected area a few times a day.
Also, use olive oil in your cooking.
6. Drink Turmeric Infused in Milk
Turmeric has been widely documented for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The bioactive compound in turmeric called curcumin fights inflammation. It also has an inhibitory effect on an enzyme called phosphorylase kinase, which is responsible for skin cell growth.
A clinical study in 2000 conducted research on the efficacy of turmeric for the treatment of psoriasis symptoms. Researchers observed that half of the patients in the study showed 90 percent clearance of psoriasis symptoms within 2–6 weeks when they were treated with curcumin gel, whereas the other half showed a considerable 50–85 percent improvement after 3–8 weeks.
This was further supported by a study conducted in 2015, which suggested that turmeric gel can be used as an alternative therapy for people with plaque psoriasis.
- Add 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of almond milk or diluted coconut milk in water (use ratio of 1:2), and sweeten it with honey. Drink this milk every day for a few weeks.
- Include this spice in your cooking to benefit your overall health.
- Alternatively, make a thick paste by adding 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder to enough water. Apply a layer of the paste on the affected area, cover the area, and leave it on overnight. Rinse the area the next morning with lukewarm water.
Note: Avoid ingesting turmeric if you have gallbladder problems as it can worsen your situation. Consult your doctor before you consider taking turmeric as a herbal remedy if you suffer from blood clotting issues or you are on medication for diabetes.
7. Use a Compress of Licorice Root
Licorice has been used liberally in Chinese medicine since ages to treat the key symptoms associated with psoriasis.
The compound glycyrrhizin in licorice root helps reduce the redness, irritation, and inflammation in the affected skin region.
A 2018 study reports that licorice root contains an isoflavone called glabridin, which aids in the downregulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines and improves the antioxidant status.
- Apply 2 percent of licorice gel or cream to the affected area twice a day for several weeks.
- Alternatively, add 2 teaspoons of dried licorice root in 6 cups of water, and then let it simmer for about 40 minutes. Cool and strain the solution. Dip a washcloth in this solution and use it as a compress on the affected areas a few times daily.
- Fill a jar with licorice root, pour olive oil in it, close the lid, and set it aside for 4–6 weeks. You can also heat the mixture for several hours. Strain the oil. Apply it to the affected areas. Leave it on until it is absorbed completely. Use it two to three times daily until the symptoms improve.
8. Apply the Gel of Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has been used topically as a home remedy to treat skin ailments such as dryness, sunburns, inflammation, and even psoriasis.
Aloe vera soothes the irritation in psoriasis-affected skin by hydrating it. Also, it promotes healing by forming a protective layer on the broken surface.
The abundance of bioactive molecules in aloe vera that have antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory compounds help to fight inflammation and boost the immune system.
- Scoop out the gel from an aloe vera leaf.
- Blend it and apply on the affected areas.
- Leave it on until it is entirely absorbed by the skin.
- Repeat the application two to three times daily for several weeks.
You can also use aloe vera to treat other skin disorders such as eczema, dermatitis, and skin allergies.
9. Coat the Affected Skin with Glycerin
Glycerin can add to the health of your skin by keeping it hydrated and getting rid of skin dryness.
According to a 2011 study, cream-based glycerin ointment can help treat dry skin and scaling in psoriasis.
- Generously apply glycerin on the affected skin.
- Leave it on for as long as you can.
- Do this two to three times a day for a few weeks.
10. Expose Yourself to Sunlight
Sunlight can help as a natural light therapy for psoriasis patients.
In a 2013 study, researchers inferred that the sun can be a natural medication for the millions of Americans suffering from psoriasis.
As recommended by medical professionals, patients with psoriasis should expose themselves to sunlight at least three times a week for about 30 minutes. This can start with a 10-minute ritual that can gradually be increased to 30 minutes.
Make sure to consult your dermatologist for an appropriate time duration and the need for a sunscreen to avoid sunburns.
Take an Epsom Salt Bath
An Epsom salt bath can help relieve skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis.
Epsom salt has been accredited with therapeutic properties. It has been used widely as a relaxant to soothe itching and burning.
- Fill your bathtub with warm water and add 2 cups of Epsom salt.
- Soak yourself in the water for about 15–20 minutes.
- Pat your skin dry and apply a generous amount of moisturizer.
- Do this two to three times a week.
Use a Cold Compress
Using a cold compress can reduce the itching and irritation and can give you a soothing sensation.
- Wrap enough ice cubes in a washcloth or towel.
- Apply the compress on the affected area for about 10 minutes.
- Repeat this every few hours.
You can also take a cold water shower or bath.
Caution: Avoid applying ice directly on the skin as it can lead to frostbite.
How to Backent a Flare-Up of Psoriasis?
It is essential to stay informed about your condition to make efforts to help yourself. Following a set of preventive measures can help you prevent the psoriasis from worsening and affecting your appearance.
Here are some tips:
- Take a daily bath or shower, but avoid scrubbing the skin too hard to prevent irritation. Use a body wash instead of bar soap, which can cause drying.
- Avoid using hot water and harsh soaps, which can worsen the symptoms.
- Use lukewarm or fresh water and mild soaps for bathing.
- Keep your skin hydrated by using a heavy ointment-based moisturizer. It is recommended to use a moisturizer soon after you take a bath while your skin is still moist.
- Expose your skin daily to small amounts of sunlight.
- Avoid psoriasis triggers, which can include infections, injuries to your skin, stress, smoking, and intense sun exposure.
- Manage stress with relaxation techniques.
- Install humidifiers to add moisture in your home environment.
- Avoid scratching and picking at the lesions.
- Wear clothes made of soft cotton and linen.
- Avoid using dyes and perfumes that can act as irritants and affect your skin.
- Avoid drinking alcohol as it can curtail the effectiveness of treatments.
- Apply medication on your skin as directed by your dermatologist until psoriasis clears away.
When to See a Doctor
If you suspect any symptoms related to psoriasis in you or any of your family members, consult your dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
If you are suffering from psoriasis, seek medical help in the following cases:
- You have a flare-up.
- You are pregnant or you wish to conceive.
- Your treatment plan has suddenly stopped working for you.
- You are experiencing discomfort or pain in the joints, a characteristic feature of psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriatic arthritis is a complication of psoriasis that affects almost 10–30 percent of individuals suffering from psoriasis.
Although there is no definitive cure for psoriasis, you can steer clear of psoriasis flare-ups by following your advised treatment plan and preventive measures.
In addition, you can implement the aforementioned natural strategies and keep your skin moisturized to soothe the irritation and ease your condition.
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