Symptoms of psoriasis can impact your life in many ways. Beyond the itching and irritation, you may suffer a loss of self-confidence and possibly even avoid activities you love just to keep your skin covered. Fortunately, there are several effective psoriasis treatments, like those performed at the Alpharetta, GA offices of Premier Dermatology and Mohs Surgery of Atlanta, that can help.
What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes skin cells to renew and turn over too rapidly. This leads to a buildup of extra cells, which often appear as scaly, red patches or spots. They are generally itchy and are accompanied by pain in some patients.
There are many forms of psoriasis, and their symptoms can vary. The most common form, plaque psoriasis, generally displays itself as scaly, red patches of skin that are very itchy. It also commonly manifests as scalp or nail psoriasis. One particular form, psoriatic arthritis, causes pain and inflammation in your joints.
Although each form of the condition presents differently, almost everyone with psoriasis will experience these symptoms:
- Red and irritated skin that may appear thickened
- Patches that develop silvery scales as a result of excess cell growth
- Itching and/or pain in the affected areas
Symptoms often come and go, and you may have periods with no sign of your condition. However, if symptoms suddenly get worse, make sure to talk to your doctor. This is especially important if you are receiving psoriasis treatments, since it may be a complication of your medication.
While the exact cause of psoriasis is not yet fully understood, there are certain things that seem to cause flare-ups. These include infections, vitamin D deficiencies, injuries to the skin, and some medications. Sometimes, lifestyle choices can also aggravate your psoriasis. Some of these are smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and prolonged exposure to stress.
How Is It Diagnosed?
Your doctor will conduct a thorough exam, taking into consideration your symptoms and medical history. In some cases, your doctor may want to perform a skin biopsy to determine the exact type of psoriasis you have and rule out other conditions that might be causing your symptoms.
What Psoriasis Treatments Are Available?
There are numerous treatments available for people suffering from symptoms of psoriasis. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, one of these psoriasis treatments may be helpful:
Exposure to ultraviolet light has shown itself to be an effective treatment for psoriasis. This process, called light or phototherapy, can use natural sunlight, artificial UVB or UVA light fixtures, or a UVB-based excimer laser to treat affected areas. These are either used alone or in combination with other medications, like topical coal tar.
For cases with mild to moderate symptoms, your doctor may suggest psoriasis treatments that involve applying topical creams or ointments to the affected areas. These are some of the available topical creams that are commonly prescribed:
Salicylic acid is an effective method of removing excess skin cells, which can reduce the appearance of scaling in psoriasis. It is often used along with several other psoriasis treatments that can address itching and inflammation.
Corticosteroids work to reduce the swelling and itching associated with psoriasis. They are commonly prescribed for the condition and are particularly useful in treating sensitive areas like the face.
Coal tar is available both over the counter and by prescription. Topical application of products containing coal tar can help relieve symptoms of psoriasis such as itching, scaling, and inflammation.
Moisturizers can be used if your psoriasis is accompanied by dry skin. Moisturizing creams, lotions, and ointments may help to alleviate some of your discomfort.
Vitamin D analogues are a synthetic form of vitamin D that slow cell growth. This helps to reduce inflammation and may relieve mild to moderate symptoms of psoriasis. Prescription versions can be irritating, however, so close monitoring of application areas is important. Vitamin D with often used along with other psoriasis treatments.
Oral and Injectable Medications
For people who do not respond to topical or phototherapy psoriasis treatments, there are also oral and injectable medications that can be used. These are often reserved for severe cases of the condition, although people with psoriatic arthritis may start receiving them early on in their treatment.
Biologics are drugs that target and suppress the immune system. They are generally administered by injection and are reserved for the severe cases of psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Retinoids can also be used in severe cases of psoriasis. They are a form of vitamin A that helps to reduce inflammation. However, they cause an increased rate of birth defects, so women who are planning to get pregnant in the near future should not use retinoids.
Methotrexate is an oral medication that helps decrease the rate of cell production and reduces inflammation. It can also be effective in treating psoriatic arthritis.
Are You a Good Candidate for Psoriasis Treatments?
Ultimately, the decision to try a specific psoriasis treatment will be made by you and your doctor. If you are living with symptoms of psoriasis, contact the medical professionals at Premier Dermatology and Mohs Surgery of Atlanta in Alpharetta, GA, where you can discuss your concerns and have any questions answered. Find out if you are a good candidate for psoriasis treatment today and take the first steps toward clearer, smoother skin.