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Psoriasis

Overview

Psoriasis is a skin condition characterized by raised, pink patches of skin, covered with scaly silvery scales. It can be itchy, inflamed, unsightly and, in worst cases, extremely painful. Medical science is uncertain what causes it, though there is evidence to support a number of underlying triggers, including food allergies, stress, an auto-immune disorder and dietary deficiencies. Psoriasis affects as many as six million Americans, though the number may be underreported, as many people don’t bother consulting a physician for minor cases.

 

Treatments for psoriasis include topical ointments and medications, suggestions for dietary changes, recommendations for nutritional supplements and internal, systemic medication. Psoriasis is seen equally in both genders, and in all ages of people. It is most likely to appear on the scalp, elbows, knees, groin and lower back. About ten percent of sufferers develop psoriatic arthritis, an extremely painful arthritic condition.

 

What Psoriasis  Does:

While doctors have identified a number of possible triggers for psoriasis, they’re more certain about the actual mechanics that causes the skin condition. Some factor – in many cases a nutritional deficiency – triggers the body’s immune system, and the body responds by going into ‘healing mode’, building new skin cells at far too fast a rate. When that happens, new skin cells build up under skin cells that aren’t yet ready to be shed, cutting off the supply of nutrients to the surface skin cells and creating a raised, itchy area of psoriasis. If the skin lesions are on the palms or the soles, they may develop oozing or pus-filled blisters, and in about ten percent of all cases, the skin condition can develop into psoriatic arthritis.

 

Symptoms of  Psoriasis:

The symptoms of psoriasis include:

 

  • Raised skin lesions that are deep pink with silvery scaly surface and red borders

  • Cracked, painful skin, particularly at the lesions

  • Itchy skin (in some people)

  • Blisters oozing with pus, particularly on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands

  • Pitted, discolored and thickened toe and fingernails

  • Joint pain in those who develop psoriatic arthritis

 

What Causes Psoriasis:

Researches have identified a number of possible triggers for an outbreak of psoriasis, but can’t say with any certainty exactly how the triggers work to touch off an outbreak. The triggers vary from person to person, and one person may have outbreaks triggered by a number of different sources while another may not have any of the identified triggers. The possible causes for psoriasis include:

  • A faulty immune system is the explanation that most researchers lean toward. The actual mechanics that cause the lesions are the same process by which the body heals injuries to the skin – almost as if something turned the immune system on high without any cause.

  • Genetics seem to be implicated, as psoriasis is more likely to occur in those with a family history of psoriasis.

  • Emotional stress seems to trigger or worsen outbreaks of psoriasis. This may be due to the fact that stress puts an added burden on the body’s nutritional needs, thereby either diverting necessary nutrients, or triggering an excess of some bodily chemical.

  • Obesity is often a co-condition of psoriasis. It may be a matter of diet that causes both conditions.

  • Skin injuries or sunburn are often the precursors to psoriasis.

  • Streptococcus virus may be implicated in some way, as psoriasis symptoms often seem to appear for the first time about two weeks after a strep throat infection.

  • Certain drugs, specifically gold, lithium and beta-blockers seem to trigger outbreaks of psoriasis.

  • Diet is definitely implicated, and some health practitioners suspect an allergic reaction to some foods as one cause of psoriasis. Specifically, the intake of alcohol and acidic foods seems to trigger and worsen psoriasis outbreaks.

 

Treatments for Psoriasis:

Treatments for psoriasis range from topical creams and ointments to internal systemic drugs, nutritional therapies and dietary supplements. Some holistic practitioners even recommend stress reduction techniques to help reduce the incidence and severity of psoriasis outbreaks. The major treatments recommended for psoriasis are:

 

Drug Therapies

  • Corticosteroids may reduce inflammation and irritation, but can only be used for short periods of time.

  • Ointments containing salicylic acid help scales to shed.

  • Ointments and topical skin treatments containing capsaicin (hot pepper extract) may reduce inflammation by blocking chemicals in the skin.

  • Prescription medications taken by mouth that include methotrexate, psoralen and tegison, all of which can be used with UV therapy.

  • Ibuprofen may reduce swelling, inflammation and pain, particularly that associated with psoriatic arthritis.

  • Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) helps soften skin and reduces painful cracking.

  • Coal tar ointments and shampoos are often prescribed for treatment of psoriasis of the scalp. There are potentially serious side effects, but it does relieve symptoms.

 

Nutritional and Alternative Supplement Therapies

  • Dietary changes that may help in cases of psoriasis include eliminating alcohol, simple sugars, foods high in acid and fat, and any foods that are known allergens.

  • Omega 3 fatty acids, particularly fish oil supplements, have been proven to reduce psoriasis symptoms in clinical trials. The recommended dosage is 1000 mgs twice daily.

  • Vitamins B12 and E and folate supplements have reduced symptoms of psoriasis in dosages of 100 to 1000 mcg daily.

  • Several studies have suggested that zinc is effective in treating psoriasis. Suggested dosage is 30 mg daily.

  • Selenium seems to alleviate the symptoms of psoriasis, as indicated in several studies.

  • Milk thistle stops the breakdown of substances that contribute to psoriasis. Some herbal practitioners suggest tea or tincture made with milk thistle to help alleviate the symptoms of psoriasis.

 

The advantage that dietary and nutritional supplements have over most prescription drug treatments is the lack of harmful side effects. Regularly supplementing your daily diet with the nutrients that are known to help prevent and lessen the symptoms of psoriasis can eliminate painful outbreaks permanently. The antioxidant properties of omega 3 fish oil supplements seem to be the most effective, and many health professionals recommend taking a daily supplement that provides DHA and EPA – the two main essential fatty acids found in fish oil – to help control outbreaks of psoriasis.

 

 

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