Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that can make life uncomfortable and isolating for individuals who must experience the constant itching, burning and soreness of psoriasis plaques. Scaly, bright red psoriasis lesions form on the skin when abnormal skin cell proliferation, caused by the immune system attacking the body in error, creates these thickly layered, difficult to treat plaques. Since skin cell production continues at such an accelerated rate due to an atypical immune system response, psoriasis lesions develop quickly from masses of dead skin cells that the body cannot shed quickly enough. In addition, these scaly, raised lesions harden and itch intensely, sometimes bleeding if the patient scratches them or engages in physical activity that causes the tough plaques to crack or split.
While no cure exists for psoriasis, a variety of treatment options are available that can minimize the discomfort of a psoriasis outbreak. Patients who are able to discover certain “triggers” that precipitate an attack of psoriasis may avoid experiencing excessive psoriasis flare-ups as well. Research into why psoriasis worsens in some people but remains mild in others has found that an individual’s sensitivity to both external (heat, cold, humidity, etc.) and internal (psychological) irritants can exacerbate psoriasis and even force it into the joints where a condition known as psoriatic arthritis can develop.
What are the Best Treatments Available for Psoriasis?
Oral medications and topical ointments containing corticosteroids are two common treatment methods that help relieve the discomfort of psoriasis plaques. However, topical creams usually work to reduce swelling and inflammation for mild psoriasis outbreaks only and do not effectively relieve moderate to serious cases of psoriasis.
Oral medications such as methotrexate also offer psoriasis sufferers relief from the pain and disfigurement of psoriasis but cause side effects that can be serious. While taking methotrexate, patients may experience hair loss, canker sores, headaches, skin sensitivity and body aches. Doctors attribute most of these side effects with a folic acid deficiency caused by the drug inhibiting the body’s ability to absorb this nutrient from digested food passing through the intestines.
Ultraviolet B Phototherapy
The same kind of ultraviolet radiation energy found in sunlight is used in Ultraviolet B phototherapy for relief of psoriasis. When subjected to UVB rays, skin cells comprising plaques significantly slow their growth rate which prevents development of additional lesions. In addition, patients can apply emollient to existing plaques to soften them for easier removal by peeling away layers of dead skin cells.
Narrow-band UVB seems to be more effective in eliminating psoriasis plaques than broad-brand UVB because narrow-band bulbs emit more intense, smaller ranges of UV energy. Moreover, patients undergoinging narrow-band UVB therapy may suffer less instances of psoriasis flare-ups and need fewer monthly treatments than those subjected to broad-band UVB light. Although it is common for patients experience worsening of psoriasis symptoms at the beginning of UVB light therapy, this is only a temporary condition that is generally followed by dramatic improvements in the amount of plaques affecting the patient’s skin as well as related psoriasis symptomology.
Ultraviolet radiation works to relieve psoriasis by targeting T-cells released by the immune system for the purpose of eliminating skin cells that are healthy. These same T-cells are also used to fight viral and bacterial infections in the body and heal wounds. Doctors do not know why the immune system “decides” to attack health skin cells but suspect that psoriasis may have a strong genetic component they have yet to decipher.
Mayoral Dermatology offers professional implementation of safe, painless treatment methods for psoriasis that will dramatically improve the quality of life for individuals suffering from chronic psoriasis.