What is it?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition characterized by an unsightly flaking of the skin.
Symptoms: Red, raised patches which gradually enlarge and form silvery white scales. Occurs most frequently on the arms, legs, genitals, scalp and nails, The lesions may cause considerable discomfort, when the nails are affected they become thickened, pitted and separate from the nail bed, sometimes the skin eruption is accompanied by painful swollen joints.
Causes: Psoriasis tends to run in families. An overproduction of skin cells causes a thickening of the skin and flaking. Trigger factors include emotional stress, skin damage, physical illness and alcohol.
Possible complications: Involvement of joints e.g. arthritis.
Treatment in the home: Use an emollient cream to reduce dryness and itching. Moderate sunbathing may be helpful. Actual sunburn can make it worse. Avoid direct contact with detergents, soaps or chemicals if you have psoriasis on the hands, wear cotton gloves under rubber gloves when washing dishes etc. Try not to injure the skin. Don’t drink alcohol.
When to consult a doctor: At the first sign of eruption
What the doctor may do: Examine the skin to confirm the diagnosis of psoriasis. Prescribe moisturizing creams to improve the skin’s appearance and control the itching caused by dry skin. Prescribe tar or dithranol preparations. These are messy and can stain bed linen and clothes. Prescribe a corticosteroid cream to maintain improvement. Use strictly according to your doctor’s instructions as it may have side effects if used over a long period of time. Arrange for a phototherapyG to slow down the rate at which the cells multiply. Treat associated arthritis with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or antirheumatic drugs. Refer you to a dermatologist who may admit you to a hospital for further treatment. Psoriasis is a long-term condition and there is no permanent cure.