Psoriasis is a chronic, recurring condition that commonly causes red scaly patches to appear on the skin. These patches frequently occur on the elbows and knees, but can affect any area including the fingernails and toenails.
According to the National Institute of Health, psoriasis affects between 5 and 7.5 million Americans. Though there are various forms of psoriasis, the most common is what is known as “plaque” psoriasis.
Everyone sheds and rebuilds skin cells. It takes about a month for skin cells to rise to the surface and flake off. However, with psoriasis, this turnover of cells happens in only a few days. Consequently, dead skin cells build up on the surface of the skin, creating the dry, silvery patches associated with the disease. Doctors often identify psoriasis by sight, though there are times when cells need to be examined under a microscope to confirm the disease.
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, but most doctors agree that the problem stems from the immune system, and that it can be hereditary. Because a compromised immune system and psoriasis are closely related, psoriasis sufferers should limit their exposure to environments that contain allergens such as dust or cats, for example, or work-related allergens such as the products we use every day in the salon. The immune system is on high alert in the presence of allergens, so be especially cautious of touching product to the skin if you or a client has psoriasis.
Treatment for psoriasis has three stages. The first is topical creams, the second is light therapy, and the third is “systemic therapy,” which means patients take medications to treat the whole system of the body. Topical treatments can include aloe, jojoba oil, bath oils, and moisturizers, as well as cortisone creams. Light treatment is administered mainly at the doctor’s office, though in some cases, patients can be treated at home. Sometimes light therapy is as simple as exposing the skin to sunlight. Systemic treatment is used for severe cases of psoriasis; these treatments are administered orally or through injection.
The best protection against psoriasis flare-ups is to keep the skin as healthy as possible. Use moisturizers twice a day. Wear cotton against the skin. Clean heating ducts and remove surface dust regularly. Develop habits that maintain your overall health, including wise food choices and sufficient rest. When the body is tired, the immune system is compromised, causing the psoriasis to flare.