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Psoriasis Treatment in Westerville
Most of us have heard of the condition known as psoriasis, often from TV commercials for dandruff shampoos. For those with chronic psoriasis, it’s much more than a few flakes on the shoulder of a winter sweater. Psoriasis can be an ongoing source of embarrassment and itchy irritation during flareups.
While there is no cure for psoriasis, our three board-certified dermatologists at Westerville Dermatology help patients manage their flareups and their overall condition.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes the rapid buildup of skin cells. It simply speeds up the lifecycle of the skin cells. This buildup of skin cells forms scales and red patches that can be itchy and painful. Typical psoriatic scales are whitish-silver and develop in thick, red patches. Sometimes these patches will crack and bleed.
In the normal development of skin cells, the typical cycle takes about one month. New skin cells grow deep in the dermis layer of the skin and slowly rise to the surface to eventually be shed. In people with psoriasis, this production process may occur in just a few days. This doesn’t give the skin cells time to slough off, leading to a buildup and the formation of scaly patches.
Why some people develop psoriasis is still somewhat of a mystery. It’s thought to be an immune system problem, especially relating to your T cells and white blood cells called neutrophils. T cells usually course through the body looking for viruses and bacteria to attack, but with psoriasis, the T cells attack healthy skin cells by mistake. This causes inflammation.
These overactive T cells also trigger increased production of healthy skin cells, more T cells, and other white blood cells, particularly neutrophils. These cells also travel into the skin causing inflammation and sometimes creating pustular lesions. Psoriasis-affected areas become warm and red, due to dilated blood vessels.
The inflammation triggers more skin cells to be produced and they move to the outermost layer of the skin too quickly — a process that should take weeks occurs in only days. These cells build up on the skin surface in thick, scaly patches.
Symptoms differ from person to person, depending upon the type of psoriasis. Most forms go through cycles of flare-ups and calming down. The condition can even go into complete remission. Signs and symptoms vary between people, but there are some common symptoms:
These patches can range from just a few spots to major eruptions that cover large areas of the body.
People assume from its appearance that psoriasis is contagious, such as other skin rashes like Athlete’s foot or ringworm. This is not the case at all. You cannot catch psoriasis from contact with someone who has the condition.
People confuse psoriasis and eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis), but they are not the same. Here are the differences:
Light therapy is a first-line treatment for moderate to severe psoriasis. It may be used alone or in combination with medication. Sunlight, of course, is light therapy. Brief, daily exposure to sunlight (known as heliotherapy) can improve psoriasis. Too much UV exposure can worsen the flareups, however.
At Westerville Dermatology, we employ many different treatments for psoriasis. This is because there are many different forms, and different patients respond in different ways. We begin treatment with the mildest, least aggressive treatments, progressing to stronger options as needed. The goal is to slow the cell production and buildup. Here are the many options we may use:
For patients with mild to moderate psoriasis, the use of creams and ointments may be all that is necessary. Here are some of the options we use:
The use of prescription oral or injected medications is known as systemic treatment. These drugs have side effects, so they are used only for brief periods, usually alternating with other forms of treatment.
Although there isn’t any research showing across the board effectiveness, for some patients changes in diet or taking certain supplements may help. Aloe vera and barberry can be used topically, while fish oil is taken orally.
These are mostly topical treatments, such as the various light therapies and topical medications. But there are also oral and injected medications. Most medications have potential side effects if used incorrectly or if taken for long periods of time. When we move you into one of these treatment options, we thoroughly discuss the possible side effects of medication. They vary with each drug.