Psoriasis: The Scaly Disorder

Psoriasis

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR

Psoriasis is a chronic progressive inflammatory disorder of the skin. Its aetiology, or cause, is obscure. Some researchers testify to its genetic predisposition. They reckon that psoriasis often tends to run in families. They also note that if both parents are affected, their offspring has a 60 per cent chance of developing the condition.

What is apparent is the presentation of the problem per se — red patches, or plaques, on the skin, which are often covered by silvery scales.

Psoriasis is not infectious; it is also not brutal enough to affect general health. The problem is more than a cosmetic anomaly; it can also be socially disconcerting.

Psoriasis affects approximately two per cent of the population; as a matter of fact, people with mild symptoms may not even be aware of its presence.

However, the disorder affects people of every age — although studies approximate that it has a tendency to affect youngsters around age 20 and/or people in their fifth, or sixth, decade of life.

Types Of Psoriasis

  • Plaque psoriasis is characterised by raised, red patches covered with silvery white scales. The scales are caused by a build-up of dead scales. This is the most common type of psoriasis. It occurs on the scalp, elbows, knees, or any other skin surface
  • Guttate psoriasis presents with tiny, red dots; the lesions may have some scaling. This type of psoriasis may occur after a bacterial, or viral infection, or certain medications, such as salicylic acid, which is used in many over-the-counter [OTC] acne products and treatment procedures
  • Inverse psoriasis is distinguished by smooth, red patches without scaling. The affected area may get irritated because of sweating and rubbing of the skin. Common areas affected are usually the folds of the skin, the armpits, under the breast, or groin
  • Pustular psoriasis appears as blisters filled with pus on the skin. The blisters are not infectious; they are usually present on the hands and feet, or all over the body.
  • Psoriatic arthritis affects about 10-12 per cent of patients with psoriasis. Redness and swelling on the elbows, hands, knees, feet, hips and spine may accompany joint pain and stiffness
  • Nail psoriasis affects the fingernails and toenails causing pits of various sizes, shape and depth. The nails may turn thick and yellow and ‘disintegrate’ effortlessly.

Causes 

Psoriasis is a product of environmental stressors, or triggers — stressors fuel the condition in predisposed people. ‘Prompts’ include throat infections, skin distress, such as cuts, bruises or burns, some medications [aspirin], stressful situations, or psychological trauma, smoking and high alcohol intake.

Also, psoriasis is more likely to occur in people with a family history of the condition, as already cited; but, it does not, in any way, spare others.

Signs & Symptoms 

Psoriasis is multi-faceted. What is, however, common to many forms is the outward manifestation — it often produces thickening and reddening of patches of skin. The patches typically occur on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back.

They may have a thick silvery-white scale of dead skin on the surface, which is often itchy. Most people afflicted by the disorder retain it for life. In a majority of cases, psoriasis often fades and reappears, with no evident reason.

While the severity of each eruption may vary, the disorder may be the cause of generalised illness, when it envelops the whole body. In some patients, psoriasis may also be associated with arthritis — which can either be mild, or severe.

Diagnosis 

Your physician usually diagnoses psoriasis from the symptoms and on the basis of a physical examination. In some cases, if they are unsure, a tiny skin sample may be taken for tests in a laboratory to help confirm the diagnosis.

Self-Help  

A few simple self-help measures are most often useful.

  • It is useful if you do not scratch, or pick at the skin: if you do, it may bleed and become infected, or expand in that area with a vengeance
  • You would also need to do away with soaps that give you a dry feeling — it is always better to wash with an aqueous cream, or emollient. After washing, allow the skin to dry
  • It is imperative not to irritate the skin by rubbing vigorously
  • Sunlight is good medicine for most psoriasis patients — but, it isn’t good in patients who experience pain during the exposure
  • Cotton clothing is ideal attire; it is best to avoid rough, synthetic clothes
  • Practice meditation, yoga, and relaxation response on a daily basis. They all help to ease your stress, or anxiety levels — the ‘resident’ trigger for psoriasis.

Treatment 

The use of complementary therapy has most often been a case of desperate measure, not necessarily curative in application. However, Ayurveda, homeopathy, relaxation methods, such as meditation, yoga and Alexander Technique have been reported to be beneficial because they reduce stress — a confirmed ‘prompt’ of psoriasis.

It is not always easy to differentiate between skin disorders like psoriasis with others. The best thing to do is to consult your Ayurveda, or homeopathic physician, who has specialised in dermatology.

Ayurveda 

Ayurveda suggests that psoriasis occurs as a result of two triggers. One is the inequity in the primary functional energies of the body [doshas], viz., vata and kapha. Vata leads to scaling of the skin and joint pain. Kapha, likewise, causes itching and discharge from the skin. Pitta imbalance too affects the skin — the typical reactions are redness and inflammation.

Besides, psoriasis, according to Ayurveda, may be caused by the ‘stockpile’ of toxins in the body. Such toxins are present all over the body, including the blood and skin.

They affect the tissues in the body leading to psoriasis. Ayurveda aims to eliminate such toxins and restore our body’s normal energy balance.

The treatment protocol depends on the nature and intensity of the symptoms. A patient who only has external symptoms need to be treated in a different way from a patient who has psoriatic arthritis. In addition, diet and lifestyle changes are just as important.

Homeopathy

Clinical research studies conducted in the UK and Germany, report that 81-97 per cent of psoriatic patients treated with homeopathy showed distinct improvement, with no side-effects.

A study published in The Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, a conventional medical journal, reports that psoriasis patients experienced significant improvement in their quality of life [QoL] and reduction in their psoriasis symptoms with homeopathic treatment.

60 people were enrolled in a study at Obitsu Sankei Hospital in Kawagoe, Japan. The purpose of the study was designed to determine the effect of individualised homeopathic remedies on several common skin disorders.

These disorders included atopic dermatitis [eczema] and psoriasis. Treatment occurred over a period of 3 months to 2 years and 7 months and subjects were permitted to use conventional dermatological treatments while taking part in the trial.

Using the trial participants’ own assessment, improvement, or otherwise was assessed using a nine-point scale similar to the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital Outcome Scale.

On this basis, 6 subjects reported a complete recovery, 23 reported a 75 per cent improvement, 24 found a 50 per cent improvement and 7 had a 25 per cent improvement. In all, 88.3 per cent of patients reported over 50 per cent improvement.

  • Itamura R. “Effect of Homeopathic Treatment of 60 Japanese Patients with Chronic Skin Disease.” Complement Therapies in Medicine; Jun 2007: 15[2]:115-20.

In a prospective multi-centre observational study with a 2-year follow-up, 82 patients with psoriasis were treated with homeopathic remedies and also allowed to use conventional drugs.

The researchers found that the severity of psoriasis improved.  Patients were able to reduce the amounts of conventional drugs used. The severity of co-morbid diseases improved and the quality of life [QoL] also improved. The utilisation of health services decreased markedly.

  • Witt C M et al. “Homeopathic Treatment of Patients with Psoriasis: A Prospective Observational Study with 2-Years’ Follow-Up.” Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology; 2009: 23; 538-543.

Nutrition 

A sea product, derived from deep sea shark liver oil and shark cartilage, has shown beneficial effects in quickly reducing itching and redness, not to speak of scaly eruptions — common in dermatological conditions.

The product is available as a topical application and fortified with both vitamins A and D at low concentrations. Vitamin E is also a component — the element being added as an antioxidant for the oils.

The topical cream — which is rapidly absorbed — works through a combination of the immuno-modulatory effects of deep sea shark liver oil, along with anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic actions of shark cartilage.

Besides, the squalene content in deep sea shark liver oil exerts both anti-bacterial and emollient effects — one additional advantage for the recovery of skin health.

It also promotes the process of healing itself. This is not all. Shark cartilage is rich in mucopolysaccharides, or glycosaminoglycans — joint and heart affections, as you already know, could benefit from it use. A bonus, no less.

It is also said that psoriasis sufferers tend to have low levels of omega-3 oils. A supplement of fish oils, in capsule form may, therefore, help to alleviate the problem.

It may be mentioned that shark cartilage therapy is not just useful in heart and joint affections, cancer, skin diseases, including acne, and so on.

It may also influence the course of diseases, such as colitis, gastritis, asthma, allergic disorders triggered by poison oak and poison ivy, emphysema, haemorrhoids, or piles.

Dosage 

1,500-3,000mg, in capsule form, daily, or as advised by a professional physician/therapist.

Safety 

It should be borne in mind that shark cartilage inhibits new vascularisation. Hence, individuals who may have suffered from a recent heart attack should avoid its use. Also, patients who are recovering from surgery should desist from using the product. Pregnant women, or others who want to conceive, should completely refrain from its use. Children should not be given shark cartilage — as a supplement.

NB: It is imperative for one to consult a professional nutritional medicine physician, or therapist, for useful, also tangible, long-term treatment outcomes.

Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360. 

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