Psoriasis – one condition, many treatments

Getting the right treatment

Once you develop psoriasis, it may well come and go for the rest of your life. However, if you use a medication specifically prescribed for your psoriasis, in the correct way, it is possible to control your condition and focus on feeling confident and getting the most out of your life.

Another big question is to what extent the condition will affect you, and this is more or less impossible to answer. Your psoriasis experience could be only the mildest symptoms with the occasional patches and itching, or more severe physical symptoms. Wherever you are on this spectrum, the important thing is to take control and stay positive.

What exactly is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic disease that appears on the skin. It occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that make new skin cells grow too quickly. With psoriasis, the normal cycle of skin cells, which usually takes about a month, is sped up to a cycle that is completed in just a matter of a few days. The body does not shed these excess skin cells, so the cells pile up on the surface of the skin and ‘plaques’ form. The two characteristic features of psoriasis are: excessive skin cell growth and inflammation.

There are seven types of psoriasis. The most common form, plaque psoriasis, appears as raised, red patches covered with a silvery white build-up of dead skin cells. Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body and may, in some cases, be associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and depression.

Each person’s experience of psoriasis will be different. Some people will experience only the mildest physical symptoms, with occasional patches and itching, while for others the physical symptoms can be much more severe. Similarly the emotional impact affects people differently.

How many people are affected?

Anyone can develop psoriasis. It is equally common in men and women, and affects about 2-3% of the global population, which is around 100 million people.

Psoriasis can start at any age, but most people develop psoriasis in their twenties. There is a peak during late teens or early twenties and a second peak when people reach their fifties.

What causes psoriasis?

The exact cause of psoriasis is still unknown. It is a complex condition with multiple potential causes, which may be genetic, immunological, environmental and psychological. These factors alter how skin cells function, speeding up the rate at which skin cells are produced and shed.

Psoriasis is not contagious. Nobody gave it to you and you cannot pass it on by touch, swimming or even intimate contact.

Common forms of treatment include:

  • Non-prescription (over-the-counter) topical treatments that are applied directly to the skin. These include: moisturisers (or emollients), keratolytics (such as salicylic acid) and coal tar shampoos and topical solutions.
  • Prescription topical treatments which are applied directly to the skin and require a prescription from a doctor. These include: topical steroids, vitamin D3 analogues, combination products and topical retinoids.
  • Systemic treatments which are not applied directly on the skin, but administered in other ways, such as tablets or injections. These include different types of biologics, traditional non-biologic systemic therapies and oral retinoids.
  • Prescription phototherapy which includes a number of treatments that involve controlled exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.
To find the best treatment to suit your particular psoriasis, it’s important to have regular discussions with your doctor. Once they have a clear picture of your preferences and lifestyle, they will be able to create a treatment plan that works for you. They will also be able to help you overcome any issues with the treatment, to keep you on track.

Coping with psoriasis

Everyone copes with psoriasis differently and the choice of therapy should be based on conversations 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.

UK/IE 2013b/00072, Date of prep: April 2015

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