What is it and how do I manage it?
Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that affects roughly 2% of the UK population. There are different types of psoriasis and the symptoms can range from mild to severe, so it can vary a lot from person to person.
Although there is no cure for psoriasis, you might find you go through periods when it is better and times when it flares-up. Psoriasis can also affect more than the skin – you might find it has an impact on your nails or joints too. Knowing what type of psoriasis you have is important when it comes to finding the right treatment.
Psoriasis can happen at any age, but most often starts between the ages of 10 and 35. It may also be associated with other medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, Crohn’s disease, obesity, anxiety and depression.
Types of psoriasis
There are a number of different types of psoriasis, but the following are the most common.
General symptoms of psoriasis
Although there are many different types of psoriasis with different symptoms, most people have plaque psoriasis. Around 80% of those with psoriasis have a mild form where just a few areas of skin are affected and can be easily managed. You may experience some, or all, of the following psoriasis symptoms, depending on severity and type:
Psoriasis triggers and factors
Although psoriasis can be a genetic condition, there are many other reasons why you can develop it – or triggers that can make it flare up. Here are the common triggers that can either bring on psoriasis, or cause a flare-up if you already have it.
How to manage psoriasis
As well as avoiding triggers that can cause flare-up, there are many ways you can manage your psoriasis.
Emollients are moisturisers that can help reduce the scaling and itching caused by psoriasis. Not only can make your skin look better by removing scales, it can also make it easier to apply other psoriasis treatments – and may even help them get deeper into your skin. Emollients also soften your psoriasis skin, soothing it and can make it less likely to crack.
Applying emollients regularly can help keep you manage your psoriasis by:
- Replacing the lost water in your skin
- Helping to restore a healthy skin barrier
- This, in turn, helps protect the skin from damaging irritants and allergens.
Some emollients may contain extra ingredients to help with itchiness.
As regular soaps and cleansers can irritate the skin and cause dryness, it’s important to wash with an emollient too. There are special emollients that can be used for washing just as you would use soap, or you can apply your leave-on emollient as a soap substitute. Be prepared though – while emollient soap substitutes clean effectively, they don’t lather up like regular soap. You can also add emollients to your bath.
Coal tar can help reduce scale and inflammation when you have psoriasis. It can be applied to the skin, or coal tar-containing bath products and shampoos (for treating scalp psoriasis) are available over-the-counter to buy.
Topical corticosteroids help reduce inflammation in psoriasis. You shouldn’t use over-the-counter steroid creams and ointments to treat psoriasis unless told to by your doctor or treating specialist. They will know the right strength of steroid needed for your case.
If you are using steroids, you should continue applying your emollients. Apply your emollient first, followed by your steroid cream or ointment 20-30 minutes after.
There are other treatments that your doctor or specialist dermatologist can prescribe. These are usually products you can apply to your skin, such as strong steroids, coal tar, vitamin D based treatment, biologic agents or dithranol.
A person’s treatment plan should be created by their doctor based on their specific needs.