Symptoms of psoriasis can be embarrassing as well as uncomfortable. Symptoms of the skin disorder include red, dry patches of skin, scaly inflammations, and chronic red patches. It usually affects the elbows, knees, scalp and/or groin areas.
In particularly severe cases of psoriasis, the disorder can prevent a person from continuing the functions of daily life and can severely limit social interactions. The disorder is actually fairly common, affecting nearly two percent of the entire world population.
Unlike other topical rashes, psoriasis does not have a “cure.” It is instead considered a chronic skin disorder. Goals of treatment include controlling symptoms and working toward a remission of the condition. For some people, the winter months aggravate the condition while the summer months bring a relief from symptoms because of the increased sun exposure.
Although psoriasis is linked to a genetic predisposition and the immune system, its actual cause has not been pinpointed. Research continues into this perplexing medical issue, including some environmental factors that seem to increase the problem.
In 10 – 35 percent of patients, psoriasis is also connected to joint pain. For a few patients, the joint pain, known as psoriatic arthritis, is the only symptom of their condition.
To treat psoriasis, a doctor will look at each case individually. Dermatologists are expert in psoriasis, but the problem is common enough that family and other doctors can help with the problem.
Mild cases of psoriasis (defined as cases that affect only 10% or less of the skin surface) are usually treated with topical (applied to the skin) treatments. These come in several forms, such as creams, lotions and sprays. In particularly persistent cases, the doctor may inject a steroid directly into a stubborn patch.
Moderate to severe psoriasis (cases covering 20 % or more of the skin) don’t lend themselves well to topical treatments. In these cases, an ongoing treatment program will likely be necessary. Phototherapy (using lights) has been shown to be an effective treatment for psoriasis. The doctor may also recommend pills, like methotrexate, or regular injections. It is important to keep in mind that stronger medication and longer treatment increases the risks of side effects and other risks.
Some dermatologists have seen great success with “rotational” therapies, where they will change the psoriasis treatment every six to 24 months. This helps control side effects, and prevents the body from building up a resistance to a certain type of treatment.