Many people who do not have psoriasis think, “It’s just a rash … no big deal.” But, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Those who suffer with psoriasis live with painful physical as well as emotional symptoms.
Consider these facts about psoriasis from the National Psoriasis Foundation:
- Psoriasis is the most common autoimmune disease in the United States, affecting as many as 7.5 million Americans.
- Psoriasis occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells, resulting in painful, red, scaly patches on the skin that bleed and itch.
- There are five types of psoriasis; the most common being plaque psoriasis. This presents as raised, red patches covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells. The other types are: guttate (small dot-like lesions); pustular (white blisters surrounded by red skin); inverse (found in armpits, groin and skin folds); erythrodermic (intense shedding and redness of skin).
- Psoriasis is not contagious and is not an infection!
- People with psoriasis say their disease makes them feel self-conscious, embarrassed and helpless. Its significant impact on quality of life can also lead to increased thoughts of suicide.
- Approximately 20,000 children under age 10 are diagnosed with psoriasis each year.
- While the exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, genetics and external factors known as “triggers” play a role in its development. Some of these include: injury to the skin, infections and certain medications.
- Those who suffer with psoriasis are at increased risk for other health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, heart attack, Crohn’s disease, obesity, high blood pressure and depression.
- About 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, which causes pain, swelling and stiffness around the joints.
- There currently is no cure for psoriasis.
Photos: pimaderm.com and healthline.com
Thankfully, awareness is starting to spread. I read an NPR article the other day titled, “How the Skin Disease Psoriasis Costs Us Billions,” and it was quite an eye-opener. It referred to a study by JAMA Dermatology that says psoriasis costs the nation $52 to $63 billion a year for the direct costs of health care. Indirect costs like unemployment add another $24 to $35 billion, and the costs of associated health problems (e.g., heart disease, depression) add $35 billion more.
And then there are the emotional and social costs. Some individuals are shunned because many people believe psoriasis is contagious. I’ve read about people being asked to leave salons and get out of pools, and of children being bullied. No wonder it takes a toll on one’s self-esteem. This disease is very hard to live with. Read more about its association with depression in this Everyday Health article.
Stacy London does a wonderful job speaking on living with psoriasis in this video from The Doctors.
Natural Ways to Manage Psoriasis
There are medical options that are bringing some relief to those suffering with psoriasis, and I would like to highlight the natural approaches here. Natural psoriasis options are popular for those trying to avoid chemicals, dealing with unwanted side effects, failing to find relief from prescription drugs or wanting to supplement their other helpful therapies.
In phototherapy, the skin is exposed to ultraviolet light on a consistent basis. UV rays penetrate the skin and are believed to destroy activated T-cells, which then slows cell turnover, and reduces irritation and scaling. Light therapy can utilize natural sunlight, artificial broad-band UVB, artificial narrow-band UVB and others. However, too much sun exposure can be irritating. Talk to your healthcare provider in order to help determine the intensity and duration of exposure.
I have seen several anecdotal accounts of Infrared Light Therapy helping those with psoriasis but nothing with documented proof. That doesn’t mean the proof doesn’t exist or that infrared doesn’t work. It very well may be worth checking into.
Taking certain approaches to diet can be empowering for those suffering with psoriasis. The National Psoriasis Foundation suggests focusing on weight loss, and heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory foods (and gluten-free if you have sensitivities).
I have worked with clients who indicated that nightshade vegetables (potatotes, tomatoes, peppers) were a problem for them. Others have said citrus fruits seem to cause flare ups. One even mentioned vinegar seemed to be an issue!
We all have a unique chemical makeup and what bothers you may or may not bother someone else with the same condition. It may be worthwhile keeping a diary of your food and liquid intake for a good month or so – you might uncover some hidden sensitivities!
It is worth repeating that some lifestyle habits that affect many health problems, may also play a role in psoriasis. Consider eliminating smoking and alcohol if they are part of your routine.
Stress and anxiety can also play a role. Reducing friction in your life is so important for this condition, as well as many others. Take control and eliminate those people and obstacles that cause you stress. Remind yourself daily not to sweat the small stuff. Until you get there, consider some help. My go-to when I feel stressed or just overloaded, is Vital Adapt with adaptogenic herbs. For me, it seems to provide a calming effect, yet help me maintain energy and it seems to help with sleep. Who can’t use that?
Vitamins & Supplements
As with all of the previous natural options for managing psoriasis, supplementation should be discussed with your healthcare provider. Those consuming the standard American diet typically consume too much omega-6, which can contribute to pro-inflammatory conditions. Since omega-3 fatty acids are believed to have an effect on the immune system and the arachidonic acid pathway, some people take fish oil or flaxseed oil supplements if they do not get enough through their diets. Consuming enough essential fatty acids also help to maintain healthy skin. Glucosamine & Chondroitin and vitamin D are other supplements that are considered for those dealing with psoriasis.
Bathing & Moisturizing
Bathing daily in lukewarm water helps to calm skin and encourage scale drop-off. It is recommended that natural oils, colloidal oatmeal or Dead Sea salts be added to the water. After blotting dry, while skin is still moist, apply natural moisturizers. The National Psoriasis Foundation suggests those with aloe, cayenne (capsaicin) or tea tree oil.
Two popular products at Natural Healthy Concepts are Psorzema Crème and Tea Tree and E Antiseptic Crème from derma e®. The paraben-free Psorzema Crème contains neem, burdock, bearberry, and vitamins A and E. It soothes irritated skin and reduces scaling, flaking and itching. The paraben-free Tea Tree and E Antiseptic Crème is a blend of tea tree, vitamin E and other synergistic herbs, vitamins and natural oils.
A derma e® customer provided this testimonial:
To All the Skeptics: It’s Possible!
I was diagnosed with psoriasis a little over a year ago. It was severe, covering my entire body and was not responding to any medications. Months went by and my condition went from bad to worse, truly affecting the quality of my life. After doing some online research, I found derma e® and read several testimonials from fellow psoriasis sufferers that the Tea Tree and E Antiseptic Crème and Psorzema® Crème really worked. I was very skeptical that natural creams would help, as my condition was severe and prescription medications were not even denting the issue.
I purchased a jar of each product and began using the Tea Tree & E Crème at night and the Psorzema® Crème during the day. After one week, my skin was feeling much better. After a month, the sores began to heal. Today, after about three months, my skin is mostly clear and the creams actually help to diffuse break outs. My skin is soft, moisturized and calm, and my skin tone has evened out where the scarring was occurring. The Tea Tree and E Crème has also helped clear my husband’s acne-prone skin and has even helped with issues like Athlete’s foot and healing minor scrapes and cuts.
Learn more from Dr. Linda Miles, DOM, co-founder and chief formulator of derma e® as she explains how this deeply moisturizing crème safely and effectively relieves scaly, flaky and itchy dry skin in this video.
For those of you who were unaware of the seriousness of psoriasis, I hope you’ve found this to be educational and that it has even stirred up some empathy within you. And for those of you living with psoriasis, I wish you the best in finding the treatments that work best for you.
If you have a story to share about your experience with psoriasis, please include it in the comments below!