Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. The most common type of psoriasis is plaque psoriasis, and it is characterized by red, raised, and wrinkly patches on the skin. The patches are typically covered in a silver-white buildup of dead skin cells and can be itchy or painful. If left untreated, the skin can crack and bleed. They usually occur on the scalp, knees, elbows, and/or lower back.
If you start developing an itchy rash that does not go away with over-the-counter medication, contact your doctor. The doctor will then look for any red, raised scales with well-defined edges, as well as examine how the rash responds to other medications before diagnosing you. The doctor might also biopsy the rash — when biopsied, the skin affected by psoriasis looks thicker and more inflamed when compared to a similar-looking disease like eczema.
The doctor might also be able to determine what kind of psoriasis you have by identifying where the rash is. Plaque psoriasis is found most often on the outside of knees and elbows, the scalp, the lower back, the face, the palms, and the soles of the feet.
Although there is currently no cure for psoriasis, there are a variety of treatments to help bring the disease into remission and/or eliminate discomfort. The treatments can be done alone or combined.
- Topical treatment — medication applied directly to the skin — is usually the first choice when it comes to treating psoriasis. The medication can be with or without steroids, though psoriasis is most commonly treated with steroids as it helps reduce swelling. Topicals that treat psoriasis can be found over-the-counter or prescribed; the medication helps slow down skin cell growth, reduce inflammation and itchiness, and soothe the skin.
- Phototherapy is essentially light therapy. The skin is exposed to ultraviolet light under medical supervision. This treatment requires consistency in order to yield results. Phototherapy is typically done in a doctor’s office or a psoriasis clinic. If you are able to get a phototherapy unit at home, doing phototherapy at home is possible as well.
- Systemic medications are prescription drugs that work throughout one’s body and are typically taken as a last resort treatment for psoriasis.It is usually used to treat those with psoriatic arthritis (a complication derived from psoriasis) or those with moderate to severe psoriasis who did not receive a positive response from either topical treatment or phototherapy. The medications are taken orally (pills/liquids), by injection or infusion (intravenous (IV), needles). Systemic medications fall into two categories: traditional systemics and biologics.
Keep in mind that it might take a while before finding a treatment that works for you and helps you find relief for psoriasis. To better the process, consult your dermatologist regularly.
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