Think you have psoriasis? You’re not alone. Psoriasis is a common condition, affecting 125 million people worldwide, or a full 2-3% of the world’s population (National Psoriasis Foundation).
Psoriasis causes red, itchy patches on the body that may appear scaly (MedlinePlus). It is not contagious and is generally an inherited condition that tends to show first between the ages of 11 and 45 (A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia). It can be severely problematic for patients, even getting in the way of their daily activities. Fortunately, for those with proper treatment, it’s a manageable condition that, for some, can go into remission for weeks, months, or even years.
Unfortunately, psoriasis a chronic condition, meaning there’s no “cure;” though, like many diseases there are steps (detailed below) one can take and treatments for managing the condition. Regardless, psoriasis should always be diagnosed and evaluated by a physician or other qualified medical professional.
What is Psoriasis?
Common plaque psoriasis typically affects the knees and elbows, though it can show up nearly anywhere, including scalp, hands, and genitals. In common plaque psoriasis, the overgrowth of skin cells that collect at elbows, knees, hands, scalp, face, and other areas can cause embarrassment and in some cases can be painful as clothing catches and pulls on the dry skin patches. On the other hand, psoriatic arthritis can lead to inflammation of the joints (Mayo Clinic).
A 1974 survey that appeared in Dermatologica demonstrated that psoriasis most commonly appears on the lower limbs, but the next common place was the scalp. Most of the patients saw improvement in hot weather and sunlight, and one-third of the women saw their condition improve during pregnancy. Other surveys have shown that many patients feel psoriasis can have a profound effect on their well-being, affecting not only their body, but also their emotions and ability to socialize (JAMA Dermatology).
What Causes Psoriasis?
Recent research suggests that psoriasis is actually an autoimmune disorder.
There are two kinds of blood cells that seek out and destroy foreign cells: B cells and T cells. In psoriasis, the T cells function abnormally.
This causes several effects in the body, one of which is to produce both white blood cells and healthy skin cells at a rapid rate (American Academy of Family Physicians, Mayo Clinic). This causes skin cells that would ordinarily rise to the surface in months to rise to the surface in a matter of a few days. The dead skin cannot be sloughed off fast enough, causing thick, reddened, and itchy skin.
Psoriasis can be triggered by viral or bacterial infections, injury, medication, too much or too little sunlight, alcohol consumption, cold weather, and stress. Weight gain has also been shown to increase psoriasis in two studies that followed patients over a several year period (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Journal Watch Dermatology).
How Do You Treat Psoriasis?
There are three main types of treatments: topical treatments, oral treatments, and phototherapy. All perform with varying degrees of success.
Steroid creams are commonly prescribed, but many people do not like the side effects, which can include a puffy face, unwanted hair growth, and oily skin.
Other solutions in the beauty industry include regular exfoliation and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). One study of 12 patients found that a cream with 15% glycolic acid, as well as .05% betamethasone, respectively, were helpful in reducing erythema, transepidermal water loss (TEWL), and lowering Laser Doppler values (Dry Skin and Moisturizer). And alpha hydroxy acids mixed with betamethasone were found to be even more effective in treating psoriasis in a double-blind, split-face, single site clinical study (JEAVD).
Can Amino Acids Help Psoriasis?
Yes. Over-the-counter ingredients that can be helpful for psoriasis include the amino acids glycine and methionine. In one study, these amino acids were injected into the lesions of patients with psoriasis, as well as into the clinically unaffected skin between the lesions. The transit time of both amino acids was greatly increased in the lesions, and there was a significant loss in amino acids when lesions were appearing (Archives of Dermatology). Treating plaques with amino acids may help to supplement the loss of amino acids within the lesions.