Psoriasis is an extremely common skin condition which affects around one in fifty people (although these figures differ among ethnic populations), normally starting between the ages of 20 and 30 years.
Deep pink to red, raised patches of skin with a sharp border, and covered with silvery-white scales
Most common locations are the scalp, wrists, elbows, knees, buttocks and ankles
Pitting of the fingernails and toenails (this gives the nails the appearance of a thimble), along with thickening of the nails
Family history is extremely common
Some people develop an associated joint pain, which may indicate psoriatic arthritis
In psoriasis the skin cells multiply at a rate approximately 1000 times faster than normal, healthy cells. There is no corresponding increase in the rate at which cells are shed, causing a build-up which appears silvery and raised. The underlying cause of the problem is an imbalance in two compounds which govern the rate at which cells multiply and are sloughed off. These compounds are cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and cyclic guanidine monophosphate (cGMP).
Hereditary factors are known to be involved in psoriasis, and there is a strong tendency for the condition to run in families. It is not contagious and is more common among people with fair skin.
Triggers for psoriasis attacks include stress, infection, skin wounds, sunburn and excessive alcohol intake. Certain prescribed medications can also lead to a psoriasis attack.
Poor bowel function, obesity, impaired liver function, and incomplete protein digestion are also risk factors for psoriasis and should be addressed as part of your treatment plan. A deficiency of essential fatty acids and the mineral sulphur has also been implicated.
Fish oil capsules provide essential fatty acids, deficiency of which has been associated with psoriasis; the recommended dose is 1000 mg taken three times daily, although in severe cases your healthcare professional may recommend a higher dose
Improving liver and bowel function helps to treat and prevent psoriasis; use the herb milk thistle to support your liver, and a probiotic supplement containing Acidophilus and Bifidus to improve bowel regularity
Digestive enzymes may help to resolve problems with protein digestion, which have been associated with psoriasis
Creams containing chickweed, pine coal tar or paw paw may also help reduce the symptoms.
It is important to keep your digestive system healthy – eat a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, keep red meat and dairy products to a minimum and substitute these with plenty of fish, raw nuts and seeds, and drink 6-8 glasses of water per day. A high fibre intake is particularly important.
Ultraviolet light therapy may be recommended by your healthcare professional – be careful to avoid sunburn though as this can worsen psoriasis. Some patients also find swimming in the sea to be of benefit.
If you have psoriasis, or if others in your family do, try to include lots of essential fatty acids in your diet by eating lots of deep sea fish, or consider taking a fish oil supplement.
Reduce the load on your liver and bowel by avoiding alcohol, fried foods, and processed flour products. Some people will benefit by including a fibre supplement such as psyllium in their diets.
If you have psoriasis symptoms accompanied by joint pain, consult your healthcare professional