Nothing is more frustrating than looking in the mirror and seeing anything less than perfect. Historically, society has placed a huge burden on us to look a certain way, with a clear complexion.
Fortunately, times are changing, and less emphasis is being placed on perfection, and more on being you. But that doesn’t change how comfortable you are in your own skin. Adding the frustration of an uncomfortable, unsightly ailment doesn’t help matters.
You are not alone. According to current studies, as many as 7.5 million Americans – approximately 2.2% of the population – have psoriasis. According to the World Psoriasis Day Consortium, it affects 125 million people worldwide. That’s two to three percent of the total population.
So what can you do to help yourself?
What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a common skin condition that speeds up the life cycle of skin cells. It’s a chronic disease that often comes and goes. It typically affects the outside of the elbows, knees, or scalp, though it can appear on any location. Some people report that psoriasis is itchy, burns, and stings.
There’s more to this condition than meets the eye. While you’re seeing the result of the disease manifest itself on top of your skin as thick, scaly patches, it’s deep underneath where the trouble is actually brewing.
Your skin is constantly renewing itself. Your deeper layers of skin produce new skin cells that slowly migrate up to the surface to replace the older, dying cells. As the older cells on top come to the end of their life, they are pushed off by the upcoming newer cells and flake off. With normal skin, your body takes about 28 to 30 days to go through this process.
With psoriasis, your immune system is overactive, triggering skin inflammation and causing skin cells to be produced faster than normal. Instead of a month-long process in normal skin, psoriasis sufferers’ new skin cells are pushed to the surface in three to four days.
The body can’t shed the new skin cells that fast, so while new skin cells are being produced quickly, the old, dead skin cells pile up on top of each other. As they accumulate, the thick, red, itchy, flaky patches known as plaques appear.
There are five types of the disease, classified by the varying symptoms. Some people will have one form, whereas others will have two or more.
There’s more to psoriasis than meets the eye, and its development should lead you to your doctor for a checkup. It can often lead to psoriatic arthritis and is associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, kidney disease, obesity, depression, and others.
Why Do I Have Psoriasis?
Scientists don’t know exactly what causes psoriasis. They do know that the immune system and genetics play major roles in its development. Usually, something triggers it to flare. A combination of genes that send the immune system into overdrive triggers the rapid growth of skin cells.
While anyone can develop the condition, there are factors that can increase your risk of developing the disease:
- Family history
- Viral and bacterial infections
How Can I Manage My Psoriasis?
Typically, psoriasis worsens because of a trigger. Understanding these factors may help you identify and avoid these triggers:
- Infections, such as strep throat or skin infections
- Injury to the skin, such as a cut or scrape, a bug bite, or a severe sunburn
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Certain medications including lithium, high blood pressure medications, antimalarial drugs, and iodides.
If you can identify and subsequently avoid any of these triggers, you may be able to control future flare-ups.
Can My Psoriasis Be Treated?
While there is no cure, there are treatments available to reduce the inflammation and scales, slow the growth of skin cells, and remove plaques.
Topical treatments include ointments applied to the skin and can help mild to moderate psoriasis. They may include corticosteroids, retinoids, vitamin D analogues, salicylic acid, and moisturizers.
A new oil, formulated with years of dedicated research is showing huge promise in alleviating the inflammation associated with psoriasis. Sciaessentials DELTA-5 utilizes the unique power of sciadonic acid, derived from the seeds of conifers, and is a simple, 100% natural, organic oil preparation that has been shown to produce rapid and radical anti-inflammatory benefits for the skin within the first 24 hours of application.
The oil, which is absorbed quickly, leaves the skin feeling immediately softer, giving the benefit of more hydration with less flakiness and scaling.
Systemic medications could benefit people with moderate to severe psoriasis, or those who haven’t responded well to other treatment types. They could, however, have some sever side effects, so they’re typically reserved as a secondary or last resort and are only prescribed for short periods of time. Medications may include methotrexate, cyclosporine, biologics, and retinoids.
Light Therapy utilizes UV or natural light, which kills the overactive white blood cells that are attacking healthy skin cells (the cause of the rapid cell growth).
Most people are best benefited with a combination of treatments to reduce symptoms.
Eating Healthy For Psoriasis
Food cannot cure or treat the disease, but a healthy diet could reduce your symptoms by providing an environment that doesn’t foster the inflammatory process. Look to eat a heart-healthy diet by reducing your intake of saturated fats, increasing lean proteins, and choosing plant sources high in omega-3’s like walnuts, flax, and soybeans.
Certain foods are known to cause inflammation, so avoiding these may improve your symptoms:
- Red meat
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Dairy products
Losing weight may reduce the condition’s severity and help to make treatments more effective.
Stress is a well-known trigger for psoriasis, so learning to manage and cope with it may help you reduce flare-ups and ease symptoms. Try aids like meditation, journaling, breathing exercises, or yoga.
Psoriasis sufferers are more likely to experience depression and self-esteem issues, as you’re less confident when new spots appear and the constant cycle of the condition may become frustrating. Find a resource to help handle these issues like speaking with a mental health expert or joining a support group for people with psoriasis.