Getting the right treatment for you
When your doctor first diagnoses psoriasis it can be a lot to take in. Perhaps you are relieved to learn that something can be done, or you may feel anxious and confused.
You may have a lot of questions like How did I get psoriasis? What causes it?
The exact cause of psoriasis is still unknown. It is a complex condition with many possible causes, which may be related to family history, the body’s immune system, the environment and a person’s mental health, These factors alter how skin cells function, speeding up the rate at which skin cells are produced and are shed.
It is important to know that psoriasis is not contagious.
Nobody gave it to you and it cannot be passed on by touch, swimming in the same pool, or even intimate contact.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a medical condition that most commonly involves skin cells growing too quickly. Faulty signals in the immune system cause new skin cells to form in days rather than weeks.
The fast skin cell growth leads to psoriasis lesions. The lesions have three characteristic features: scaling, thickening and inflammation (redness).
Up to 30% of people who have psoriasis may also develop psoriatic arthritis in their joints. If you think you may be affected, talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
How many people have psoriasis? Am I just one of a few?
Anyone can develop psoriasis. It is equally common in men and women, and it affects about 2-3% of the global population, or about 1 million Canadians
Psoriasis can start at any age, but most people develop psoriasis in the age 20-35. In fact, 75% of the psoriasis cases occur before the age of 40. However, it’s possible to develop the disease both in childhood and in old age.
How will psoriasis affect me?
This is very difficult to answer. Your psoriasis experience may only involve very mild symptoms with the occasional patches and itching, or may involve more severe physical symptoms. Wherever you are on this spectrum, the important thing is to take control and stay positive.
What can I do about it? How do I treat psoriasis?
If you have psoriasis, you have the power to manage it! You need information so you can manage your condition in the best possible way. One way to start is by learning what the condition is, who it affects and what causes it. Psoriasis is a lifelong condition, and the sooner you arm yourself with information about it, the quicker you can gain control and reduce its impact on your life.
Common forms of treatment include:
- Topical treatments: topical products applied to the skin. These include: bath oil/shower solutions, moisturisers (or emollients), keratolytics and coal tar shampoos.
- Topical Prescription treatments which are applied directly to the skin and prescribed by a doctor. These include: topical retinoids, topical steroids, vitamin D3 analogues, and combined fixed-dose products like calcipotriol / betamethasone.
- Systemic treatments which are not applied directly on the skin, but rather administered in other ways, such as tablets or injections. These include immunosuppressants, cytotoxic medications, oral retinoids and biologics.
- Prescription phototherapy which includes a number of treatments involving a type of light called ultraviolet radiation, or UV.
Coping with psoriasis
Everyone copes with psoriasis differently and the choice of therapy should be based on discussions between you and your doctor.
A treatment which works well for one person may not work for another. And in some cases, a treatment that has previously worked well for someone may not be the right choice for them in the future.
So work with your doctor to find the right treatment for you.