Understanding Psoriasis: causes, symptoms & treatment

By: Osler Health International
Posted on: 26 Oct 2023

Psoriasis affects many individuals, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. Psoriasis affects around 2 in 100 people in the UK. It can start at any age, but most often develops in adults between 20 and 30 years old and between 50 and 60 years old. It affects both men and women equally. Although not harmful, psoriasis can be frustrating with regards to itchiness and aesthetics. 

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis refers to an autoimmune condition that affects the skin. It commonly occurs when the immune system cannot distinguish healthy skin cells and attacks them, causing a more rapid production of skin cells. This overproduction leads to red, scaly patches appearing anywhere on the body. For more information, please review these facts about psoriasis

Symptoms of psoriasis

Common symptoms of psoriasis are dry, thick, and raised patches on the skin. They are covered with a silvery-white coating called scale, which tends to itch. Symptoms can also depend on the type of psoriasis that you have.

Types of psoriasis and their effects

Psoriasis comes in various forms, each with its unique characteristics. The most common types include:

  • Plaque psoriasis: Known as the most common type, plaque psoriasis is characterised by raised, red patches covered with silvery-white scales. It can appear anywhere on the body, including the elbows, scalp, and knees.
  • Guttate psoriasis: Guttate psoriasis often appears as small, red, scaly spots on the skin. Infections, like strep throat, usually trigger it and primarily affect children and young adults.
  • Inverse psoriasis: Inverse psoriasis affects the skin in skinfold areas, like underarms, groin, and between the buttocks. It’s characterised by smooth, red patches that look raw. Usually, these can be sore and painful.
  • Pustular psoriasis: Pustular psoriasis causes white, pus-filled blisters surrounded by red skin. It can occur in specific areas or the entire body.
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis: Erythrodermic psoriasis is a severe type of psoriasis that can appear in the entire body with a red, peeling rash. It’s rare but can be life-threatening.

What causes psoriasis?

The exact cause of psoriasis is still under study. However, many people may not have symptoms of psoriasis for years until the disease is triggered by some environmental factors. Common triggers include:

  • Infections, such as strep throat infections or skin infections
  • Weather conditions, particularly cold and dry climates
  • Skin damage, such as cuts, scrapes, insect bites, or severe sunburn
  • Smoking and exposure to passive smoke
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Certain medications, including lithium, medications for high blood pressure, and antimalarial drugs
  • Abrupt discontinuation of oral or injected corticosteroids

Managing psoriasis: What to do and what not to do

While you are undergoing treatment for your psoriasis, it is best to seek medical support. Patients can manage their condition better and improve health outcomes by:

  • Follow treatment plans: Stick to the prescribed treatment regimen, which may include topical creams, light therapy, or medication. We know that proper planning can effectively manage psoriasis symptoms
  • Moisturise regularly: Frequent moisturising is a simple yet effective way to alleviate the discomfort associated with psoriasis. Moisturisers create a protective barrier on the skin, preventing excessive dryness, cracking, and itching. Look for fragrance-free, hypoallergenic products, and apply them generously after bathing to lock in moisture.
  • Manage stress: Stress can exacerbate psoriasis symptoms, leading to flare-ups. Engaging in stress-reduction techniques, like meditation and yoga, can lessen the impact of stress on your condition. Stress management is part of Osler Health’s Lifestyle Medicine approach. 
  • Healthy Lifestyle: A balanced diet and regular exercise are important components of managing psoriasis and improving your overall health. Make sure to consume nutrient-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Additionally, exercising can help reduce inflammation and boost your immune system while also enabling you to maintain a healthy weight. Again, review our Lifestyle Medicine approach and come in for a Comprehensive Lifestyle review. 
  • Don’t scratch: Avoid scratching affected areas to prevent exacerbating the condition and skin damage. Instead, we recommend applying a cold compress to the affected area so you can reduce the urge to scratch.
  • Limit alcohol and smoking: Both alcohol consumption and smoking can worsen psoriasis symptoms. Alcohol can trigger flare-ups and may interact negatively with certain medications. Smoking, on the other hand, has been associated with a higher risk of psoriasis and more severe symptoms
  • Overexposure to the sun: While controlled exposure to sunlight can be beneficial for some psoriasis patients, overexposure can harm the skin. Be cautious about sunburn, which can trigger or worsen psoriasis. Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen when spending time outdoors, and consider wearing protective clothing.

How medical professionals approach psoriasis treatment

It is estimated that at least 40,000 Singaporeans are affected by psoriasis. However, the condition can be managed in the primary care setting with topical medication and regular monitoring.

If you show any symptoms of this condition, visit our international health clinic here in Singapore (CBD and West clinic locations) for psoriasis treatment that will help address your health needs.

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