Affecting nearly two million Britons and notably those in their mid-30s, psoriasis is more common than you think. Patches of psoriasis – red, flaky skin covered with silvery scales – can spring up everywhere from scalp to face and thighs, and the physical and mental impact can range from mild to practically unbearable. A condition that often flares up in winter and one that has no known cure, we went straight to Cosmetic Physician and founder of The Lovely Clinic Dr Sarah Tonks to find out more...
You Can Get Tested
If you have red, itchy, scaly patches of skin and think you may be suffering from psoriasis, pop to your GP, who can refer you to a dermatologist. The test for psoriasis is usually done by clinical examination, although if there’s any doubt a biopsy can be taken. If you have been diagnosed, knowing how to manage your psoriasis – including identifying your triggers – is key.
It Mostly Affects Adults
While psoriasis can start at any age, it most often develops in adults under the age of 35. The condition affects men and women equally. However, the severity of psoriasis varies greatly between individuals – for some it’s just a minor irritation but for others it can have a major impact on their quality of life.
Stress And Climate Play A Part
When it comes to flare-ups, research suggests stress is a common trigger. Meditating, yoga, acupuncture and exercise are all effective ways to help reduce stress. Also try to ensure you’re getting adequate sleep and remember the condition is more common in the winter due to cold temperatures, lack of sunlight (it’s believed a vitamin D deficiency can exacerbate psoriasis) and dry conditions triggered by heated homes and offices.
It’s Linked To The Immune System
Exactly why psoriasis occurs remains unknown but we do know that it happens as a result of skin cells being replaced more quickly than usual. Skin cells are normally made and replaced every three to four weeks, but with psoriasis, this process only lasts about three to seven days. The resulting build-up of skin cells is what creates the patches associated with the condition. Such an occurrence is believed to be linked to the immune system – with the body attacking healthy skin cells by mistake.
It Could Be Genetic
Psoriasis is a condition which runs in families, but the exact way in which the disease moves between generations has not yet been established. Although the tendency to develop psoriasis is stored in a person’s genes, it’s by no means certain that it will ever develop.
It’s Not Contagious
Psoriasis is commonly believed to be contagious but this is a myth. If a family member has it, you are more likely to develop it, but due to genetics rather than physical contact.
Your Diet Could Reduce It
A well-rounded diet including plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and monounsaturated fats may help to reduce psoriasis flare-ups. For some patients, supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil and flaxseed may also be helpful.
UV Light Can Treat Symptoms
When it comes to treatment, there’s no cure for psoriasis but topical creams and UV light can help to reduce symptoms and discomfort. In severe cases, a treatment called phototherapy may be used but simply spending more time in the sun (always use SPF) to boost vitamin D levels can help.