Psoriasis is a complex inflammatory disease. It is perhaps best known for the plaque-like skin changes it causes, but it can also be linked to conditions that affect many other parts of the body. In this post we will focus on plaque psoriasis of the skin.
Psoriasis plaques have a scaly, red and raised appearance and commonly affect the scalp and the outer surfaces of joints (such as the elbows or knees). These plaques can vary in size and severity. Some people experience itch with their plaques, for others the skin can break and become very painful. For many, the plaques are a cause for loss of self-confidence.
There are a few things that are known to make psoriasis worse. Here are 5 common exacerbating factors:
- Cold weather
- Injury to the skin
Your GP will follow a stepwise plan to help manage your psoriasis. An example of a 3 step approach your GP may follow is:
Step 1: A potent topical corticosteroid once a day for 4 weeks
Step 2: If there is incomplete resolution after step 1, change to a potent topical corticosteroid once a day PLUS a Vitamin D analogue ointment once a day for 4 weeks
Step 3: If there is incomplete resolution after step 2, change to a very potent topical corticosteroid once a day for 4 weeks.
Your GP may also need to refer you to a dermatologist if
- Symptoms have not resolved with the above mentioned approach
- Your GP feels your psoriasis is severe
- You have associated joint pain that does not improve with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory use for 4 weeks
- There is any uncertainty about your diagnosis
- You have a form of psoriasis called Erythrodermic psoriasis – this is very uncommon, the skin over the entire body is red, itchy and peels.
- You have a form of psoriasis called Guttate psoriasis that does not resolve after 2-4 weeks. This form is most commonly seen in children following a bacterial strep throat infection. They get small red scaly lesions on their trunk, upper arms and thighs.
People with psoriasis can also develop other health problems, so keep in touch base with your GP regularly for health checks. Here are 6 conditions that are linked to psoriasis:
- Psoriatic arthritis – up to 40% of people with psoriasis of the skin will develop an inflammatory arthritis known as Psoriatic arthritis. Let your GP know if you have any joint pains as it is important to treat this early to avoid long term damage to your joints.
- Crohn’s disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease including high blood pressure