Definition from the NHS website – “Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales.” Not the most attractive of description is it? You can understand why people who are unfamiliar with Psoriasis feel rather concerned and inevitably worried about whether it is contagious… Well, it’s not! This misconception however can have an emotional and long lasting effect on Psoriasis sufferers – around 2% of people in the UK.
So, what is it?
There are 7 layers of our skin, 2 layers of the Dermis and 5 layers of the Epidermis (the outer layer of skin). During the skin life cycle our skin cells gradually move upwards until they reach the Stratum Corneum (the outer most layer). From here the skin cells die and flake off making way for lovely, fresh skin cells to form. This whole process takes between 21-28 days, which is why at Pretty Woman we always advise a facial every 4 weeks to maximise the impact on your skin.
For those with Psoriasis this 21-28 day process speeds up so dramatically (2-6 days) that the skin cells find themselves at the surface of the skin before they are fully mature. Hence the red, flaky patches. Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body but elbows & knees are very common. Scalp psoriasis is also particularly irritating.
Psoriasis is a complex skin condition with still some unanswered questions, such as a full understanding of how it is inherited, and what causes the inflammation and blood vessel proliferation on the affected skin. Unfortunately there is no cure. However, there are a large range of treatments available… To go into these in a little more detail I have enlisted the help of a guest blogger who has suffered with Psoriasis for much of her life. Here is her story…
I developed Psoriasis at 13 years old. It first appeared as a significant patch on each elbow and then appeared as thick, scaly patches on my knees. Over the years the Psoriasis has spread and dispersed, and I no longer have dense scaly patches but look more as if someone has splattered me with red paint. Unfortunately it now affects 85% of my body to a greater or lesser extent.
I am now old enough and experienced enough to know that Psoriasis is not the end of the world, but at 13 and as a very good swimmer, it seemed like it! In fact I gave up competitive swimming as a consequence…
Over the years treatments have evolved with new treatments introduced, but Doctors still seem to be no further forward in developing a cure for this distressing and embarrassing condition.
I have been treated with coal tar baths (smelly and not very effective!), salysilic acid (again smelly, and I had to be wrapped up like a mummy in polythene to aid absorption), gamma rays and light therapy (again not particularly effective). When Cortisone became available, it was welcomed as a miracle cure and was prescribed for Psoriasis but the side effects such as permanent thinning of the skin and damage to the structure of the skin were pretty off putting.
So, after Doctors, research scientists, Manchester Skin Hospital appointments, what has worked for me? Well, over the last few years I have explored various alternative ways of treating my Psoriasis. One of the main steps forward has occurred in my thinking about my condition. It is MY Psoriasis and I have taken ownership of it. I probably know more about my skin and what helps and what doesn’t than any Doctor – after all, I live with it every day of my life. I have found that, for me, a combination of over the counter products as well as conventional medical treatments have helped me live with it.
My regime of treatments now includes a Dead Sea Salt 20min soak 2/3 times a week, twice daily moisturising with a Derma Care cream, gentle exfoliation, gentle sunshine (when available), concentrated vitamin D cream (prescription only) and a Boots emulsifying skin wash cream. When the plaques are reduced, I gently exfoliate my skin to try and prevent the plaques from building up again If they do I find it itches making me scratch which can make the skin bleed.
The prescription only concentrated Vitamin D cream I use is good but I avoid a steroid based cream/ointment. This is because my Psoriasis is so spread out which means I am affecting the skin which has no psoriatic lesions. I also alternate the treatments so that the condition doesn’t get used to any particular therapy.
I hope this has given you some ideas, and please get in touch if you have any others to share. Maybe one day there will be a cure but in the meantime, live your life and enjoy it. I wish I had at 13, who knows where my swimming would have taken me?