What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic condition that speeds up keratinocytes skin cell growth causing cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin. The extra skin cells form scales and red patches that are itchy and sometimes painful. Psoriasis is not contagious and the lesions are not infectious but there is no cure for it, so you can only manage the symptoms with some people even developing a painful arthritis (3,5).
T cells normally travel through the body to defend against foreign substances, such as viruses or bacteria. But if you have psoriasis, the T cells attack healthy skin cells, as if to heal a wound or to fight an infection. Overactive T cells trigger increased production of healthy skin cells, more T cells, and other white blood cells including neutrophils. These cells travel into the skin causing redness and sometimes pus in pustular lesions. Dilated blood vessels in psoriasis-affected areas create warmth and redness in the skin lesions (3,5).
Did you know that psoriasis is most prevalent autoimmune disease in the US?
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, more than 8 million of Americans have psoriasis. Worldwide, 125 million people worldwide (2 to 3 percent) have psoriasis while both, men and women develop psoriasis at equal rates. However, psoriasis prevalence in African Americans is 1.3 percent compared to 2.5 percent of Caucasians. It is common for Psoriasis to develop between the ages of 15 and 35, but it can develop at any age (3).
How severe can psoriasis be?
The National Psoriasis Foundation (3) defines mild psoriasis as affecting less than 3 percent of the body; 3 percent to 10 percent is considered moderate; more than 10 percent is considered severe. For most individuals, your hand is about the same as 1 percent of the skin surface. However, the severity of psoriasis is also measured by how psoriasis affects a person's quality of life. Nearly one-quarter of people with psoriasis have cases that are considered moderate to severe. Typical locations for psoriasis are hands, scalp, buttocks, face, armpits, trunk, nails, genitals, and knees (2,5).
Types of Psoriasis
Plaque psoriasis. The most common form, plaque psoriasis causes dry, raised, red skin lesions (plaques) covered with silvery scales.
Nail psoriasis. Psoriasis can affect fingernails and toenails, causing pitting, abnormal nail growth and discoloration.
Guttate psoriasis. This type primarily affects young adults and children. It's usually triggered by a bacterial infection such as strep throat. It's marked by small, water-drop-shaped, scaling lesions on your trunk, arms, legs and scalp.
Inverse psoriasis. Its causes smooth patches of red, inflamed skin that worsen with friction and sweating. Fungal infections may trigger this type of psoriasis.
Pustular psoriasis. It generally develops quickly, with pus-filled blisters appearing just hours after your skin becomes red and tender. The blisters may come and go frequently. Generalized pustular psoriasis can also cause fever, chills, severe itching and diarrhea.
Erythrodermic psoriasis. The least common type of psoriasis. It can cover your entire body with a red, peeling rash that can itch or burn intensely (2,5)
Causes and Triggers
The immune system and genetics play major roles in the development of psoriasis. 10 percent of the general population inherits one or more of the genes (increasing the chance of developing psoriasis in 10 percent if inherited from 1 parent and in 50 percent if inherited from both parents. (4):
These are other factors that may trigger psoriasis (4,1):
- Viral and bacterial infections, such as strep throat or skin infections.
- People with HIV are more likely to develop psoriasis than people with healthy immune systems are.
- Children and young adults with recurring infections, particularly strep throat, also may be at increased risk.
- Injury to the skin, such as a cut or scrape, a bug bite, or a severe sunburn
- Stress, as it can impact your immune system.
- Smoking tobacco not only increases your risk of psoriasis but also may increase the severity of the disease. Smoking may also play a role in the initial development of the disease
- Lesions (plaques) associated with all types of psoriasis often develop in skin creases and folds.
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Certain medications — including lithium, which is prescribed for bipolar disorder, high blood pressure medications such as beta blockers, antimalarial drugs, and iodides
Common treatment options include topical treatments (corticosteroids, vitamin D analogs, calcineurin inhibitors and emollients), ultraviolet (UV) light therapy, immunosuppressants, and other systemic treatments (1,4,5)
Six Herbs for Psoriasis
Oregon Grape, Mahonia Spp. is a powerful antimicrobial herb that supports immune response. Applying a cream containing 10% mahonia could be helpful for mild to moderate psoriasis. Because it is in the alkaloid family, mahonia should only be used topically. Barberry Vulgaris may have a similar effect (1,3,6,9)
Cayenne contains a resinous and pungent substance known as capsaicin. This chemical relieves pain and itching by blocking nerve endings that transmit pain. Creams containing 0.025 to 0.075% capsaicin have been used in trials. Capsaicin may also help to reduce inflammation, redness and scaling associated with psoriasis. There may be a burning sensation the first several times the cream is applied, but this usually become less pronounced with each use. The hands must be carefully and thoroughly washed after use, or gloves should be worn, to prevent the cream from accidentally reaching the eyes, nose, or mouth and causing a burning sensation. The cream should not be applied to areas of broken skin (1, 3)
According to some research, aloe vera has been shown to help reduce redness and scaling associated with psoriasis. Look for creams containing 0.5% aloe. The aloe plant gel can be applied to the skin up to three times a day (3,7)
Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are both linked to systemic inflammation, and curcumin, the active ingredient in the Indian spice turmeric, has been shown to support an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Research has found turmeric's ability to alter TNF cytokine expression, which could help in minimizing psoriasis flares (3,8)
Burdock root is a liver tonic with affinity for the skin that is used for liver detoxification. Burdock is useful for chronic skin eruptions such as acne psoriasis, eczema, boils, carbuncles and sties. it supports excretion of toxic by-products from cells. Many herbal preparations will combine burdock root with other alterative herbs, such as yellow dock, red clover, or cleavers (1).
- Health Notes. Psoriasis. Web. Public.aisle7.net. http://publix.aisle7.net/publix/us/assets/health-condition/psoriasis/~default
- Mayo Clinic. Web https://www.mayoclinic.org https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/psoriasis/symptoms-causes/syc-20355840
- National Psoriasis Foundation. About Psoriasis. Web https://www.psoriasis.org
- Merck Manual Professional Version. Psoriasis. Web. https://www.merckmanuals.com https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/psoriasis-and-scaling-diseases/psoriasis
- Harvard Health Publishing. Bringing Psoriasis under control. June 2010. Web. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/bringing-psoriasis-under-control
- Wiesenauer, M. and R. Lüdtke. Mahonia aquifolium in patients with Psoriasis vulgaris ¾ an intraindividual study. Phytomedicine, Vol. 3(3), pp. 231-235. 1996. Germany
- C Choonhakarn, P Busaracome, B Sripanidkulchai, & P Sarakarn. A prospective, randomized clinical trial comparing topical aloe vera with 0.1% triamcinolone acetonide in mild to moderate plaque psoriasis. 2009. University, Khon Kaen. Thailand
- Adeeb Shehzad, Gauhar Rehman, & Young Sup Lee, Review Article Curcumin in Inflammatory Diseases. School of Life Sciences. 2008. College of Natural Sciences, Kyungpook National University, Korea.
- De la Forȇt, Rosalee. Herbs with Rosalee – Oregon Grape Root, Web, herbalremediesadvice.com https://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/oregon-grape-herb.html