If you or a loved one is experiencing dry, patchy, scaly skin, red spots with dry skin, thick nails or joint pain, it could be more than just seasonal dryness. It could be the onset of psoriasis, a skin disease that affects more than 8 million people in the United States. At Dermatology Associates, P.C., we are here to help with psoriasis. There are many treatments that can make living with psoriasis much easier, and we pride ourselves on knowing all the latest research and medications to help you.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes rough, often scaly skin patches known as plaque. Anyone can get psoriasis, but there are risk factors that can increase your chances:
- Family History: One or both parents with psoriasis increases the risk of children getting it.
- Certain infections: Viral, bacterial, and some autoimmune diseases such as HIV can make you more likely to develop psoriasis.
- Stress: Since high stress can affect your immune system, it can also be a risk factor for psoriasis.
- Obesity: Being overweight is also a risk factor because the plaque may develop in skin creases and skin folds that occur with excess weight.
- Smoking: Smoking can increase your risk and can also make psoriasis worse, if you already have it. Some evidence suggests that smoking has a role in developing psoriasis.
Diagnosing psoriasis is generally quite simple and will occur via visual inspection of your skin by your doctor. In some cases, a biopsy might be needed to determine whether it is psoriasis or eczema, a skin disease that can sometimes mimic psoriasis. Your doctor will also consider any risk factors that you may have.
For some people, joint pain may accompany skin issues. This could be a sign of psoriatic arthritis, a condition that affects around 30 percent of psoriasis sufferers. Psoriatic arthritis is characterized by mild to severe pain the joints, swelling and stiffness in the joints, fatigue, and problems with toenails and fingernails. A diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis may require x-rays in order to rule out other form of arthritis or other possible joint diseases or issues.
While there is currently no cure for psoriasis, there are many treatments available, and research is always being done. You and your doctor will work together to find the one that is best for you. There are two classes of medications that are used: biologics and systemics. Biologics are given by injection or IV, while systemics are taken by mouth. Both are used to treat moderate to severe psoriasis. Topical medications are also available, either over the counter or by prescription. Some topicals contain steroids; if you have taken steroids before and have had any unusual or adverse reactions, be sure to let your doctor know.
Phototherapy, sometimes called light therapy, is also a common treatment. Phototherapy sessions involve exposing the skin to ultraviolet light under controlled conditions in your doctor’s office or at home with a special light machine. Regular phototherapy sessions can help lessen pain, discomfort, skin plaque and the overall impact of psoriasis.
XTRAC® laser therapy is another treatment option that can dramatically help control psoriasis symptoms. This FDA-approved procedure harnesses the power of an excimer laser to help improve psoriasis. Each treatment can be completed in as little as a 30 minutes. While most patients need to undergo between 20-25 treatments, improvements can typically be seen after the 10th visit.
Other possible treatments include new oral medications and complementary or alternative treatments. Your particular case will be evaluated by your doctor so that the right therapy and treatment can be found for you.
For more information about psoriasis or to schedule an appointment with one of our dermatologists, call our office today.