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Health Topics
Psoriasis

This is a chronic, non-contagious skin condition that causes red, scaly, circular patches on the skin. It can run in families and appears to be aggravated by stress. It affects two to four percent of people with white skin but is less common in people with dark skin. The cells replicate too fast and cause this produces the scaly patch. The cells in psoriasis divide about ten times faster than in normal skin. The plaques (patches) are usually surrounded by a red border. If the patient scratches there will be pin point bleeding because blood vessels run close to the surface of the plaque. Psoriasis can affect various parts of the body including the scalp, the outside of the elbows, knees, the back, nail and buttocks. If the nails are affected it appears like a fungal infection and the nail becomes uneven and discoloured.

Psoriasis usually first appears between the ages of ten and forty but can occur at any age. An acute version of the disease is Guttate Psoriasis. This is usually triggered by a bacterial infection such as strep throat. It appears as small, waterdrop-shaped sores on the trunk, arms, legs and scalp. These sores are covered by a thin scale. The outbreak can be a singular event or can reoccur particularly if there are ongoing respiratory infections. This form of psoriasis is common in children. About ten percent of people with Psoriasis develop a form of the disease called Psoriatic arthritis which can affect people of all ages. This is an autoimmune condition. It usually only involves a few joints and is mild. In severe cases it affects the fingers and the spine. When the spine is affected the symptoms are very much like ankylosing spondylitis. It affects women and men equally and usually manifests between thirty and fifty years of age. The symptoms include stiffness, pain and reduced motion in the joints. Morning stiffness and fatigue are also common along with scaly spots on the skin, pitted nails and inflammation of the eye.

Psoriatic arthritis can be treated with non steroidal anti-inflammatories, exercise, heat and cold therapy, joint protection and energy conservation and splinting.

Other variations of Psoriasis include exfoliative Psoriatic dermatitis and pustular Psoriasis.

The cause of Psoriasis is not known but it does tend to run in families. Factors that may trigger a flare are viral infection, severe sunburn, topical drugs, allergies to drugs such as chloroquine, lithium and beta-blockers, the withdrawal of systemic corticosteroids, stress, anxiety and excessive alcohol consumption.

Psoriasis cannot be cured but there is a range of treatments on prescription to help ease the condition. Most of these treatments are topical and they slow down the rate of replication of the cells. Ultra-violet light therapy is sometimes prescribed in severe cases.

Sometimes Psoriasis can be helped by losing weight, increasing dietary intake of unsaturated fatty acids and eating deep sea fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines. Saturated fats should be avoided as should alcohol. Some essential oils are also useful, for example: jojoba, lavender, lime, tea tree chamomile and evening primrose oil. Zinc and vitamin A may help and also dandelion, milk thistle, sarsaparilla, borage oil and flaxseed oil.

Please consult with the Staff at the Pharmacy who will be happy to help you with any of the products above, with medicated shampoos, emollients and with general advice. You can also contact The Psoriasis Association of Ireland.

www.psoriasisireland.ie
P.O. Box 4233
Dublin 12

Phone: 087 2046789.

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Kevin McCormack B.Sc. Pharm. MPSI