Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease (a disorder in which the immune system becomes overactive and attacks the body’s own cells and tissues). It causes thick patches of inflamed skin which are covered in silvery scales.
The overactive immune system leads to the rapid growth of new skin cells, which form in days rather than weeks. The new cells build up quickly on the skin’s surface, forming the characteristic thick patches and scales.
On light-colored skin, the patches are pink and covered with whitish scales. On darker skin, it looks purplish with grey scales. It usually affects elbows, knees, scalp, lower back, palms of the hand, soles of the feet, and may also affect genitals.
There are five types of psoriasis that affect adults and children. Plaque psoriasis is the most common covering about 80%; the other four types are guttate, pustular, inverse and erythrodermic.
Most people suffering from psoriasis complain of itchiness when it affects their scalp, palms or soles of their feet.
Most common symptoms are
- Skin with raised inflamed patches (called plaque)
- Whitish-grey scales covering the patches
- Itchy and painful skin, or skin that may sting or burn
- Patches that may have fissures or cracks and bleed
- Fingernails and toenails that look similar to nail fungus (pitted, cracked, thickened or crumbly nails)
People suffering from this skin disease may also be affected psychologically, as indicated by the higher rates of depression, anxiety and substance abuse among them. When the patches and scales appear in visible locations, patients may feel self-conscious and withdraw socially.
Causes, risks, and triggers
Though the causes are unclear, an overactive immune system and genetic as well as environmental factors may be responsible. A family history of psoriasis and certain viral or bacterial infections can increase chances of developing psoriasis. Psoriasis is not contagious and doesn’t transmit via touch.
Psoriasis may also be incited by skin trauma due to burns, animal bites or even tattoos.
The following factors may cause flare-ups, which cause the condition to worsen for a few weeks or months.
- Viral or bacterial infections such as strep throat or skin infections. Children may experience flare-ups two to six weeks after tonsillitis, earache, bronchitis or respiratory infections.
- Skin injury due to cuts, scrape, sunburn, etc
- Stress can trigger the first flare-up or aggravate the existing skin condition
- Use of certain medicines such as antimalarial drugs, beta-blockers, and lithium.
Ayurveda Treatment for Psoriasis