Psoriasis is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disease that appears on the skin. Its cause is not fully understood, but it is believed to have a genetic component. Although there isn’t a cure for it, the good news is that it’s treatable with a variety of drugs, creams and other therapies. Since Psoriasis flare-ups are often triggered by stress, doctors usually recommend a less stressful lifestyle, as well as a balanced diet and lots of sleep.
Psoriasis is characterized by symptoms such as itchy plaques of red skin covered in thick silvery scales. It is usually found on the scalp, elbows and knees, but can also affect the nails, trunk, legs or any part of the skin.
Facts about Psoriasis
- Although psoriasis is a chronic condition, its symptoms may likely come and go.
- It can affect different parts of the body depending on the type of psoriasis, but sometimes, the joints are affected in psoriatic arthritis.
- Plaque psoriasis results in extra skin cells building up on the surface of the skin, forming silver or grey itchy patches that burn and can sometimes be very painful. The patch size and location on the skin may vary depending on the individual.
- There is actually no cure for psoriasis, and finding the right treatment can be tough. The available prescription treatments only try to minimize inflammation, slow the growth of skin cells and correct the malfunctioning of the immune system.
- There are several medications that may help symptoms. Corticosteroids and salicylic acid may help the skin surface. Lubricating the skin, light therapy, biotin and vitamin D may help some people too.
Is Psoriasis Contagious?
Psoriasis is not contagious because it is not an infection. Having contact with an affected skin and then touching someone else will not transmit psoriasis.
What Are the Causes and Risk Factors of Psoriasis?
- The immune system plays a key role in psoriasis. What happens in psoriasis is that a particular subset of T lymphocytes which is a type of white blood cell abnormally causes inflammation in the skin and other parts of the body. These T cells trigger skin cells to proliferate and produce changes in the blood vessels of the skin. Consequently, this leads to plaque psoriasis. The T cells do this by producing inflammatory chemicals.
- Psoriasis has a genetic component, which means that it can be inherited. Yes, there are people who carry genes that make them more susceptible to developing psoriasis. However, the fact that someone has the genes that would make him prone to having psoriasis doesn’t necessarily mean they will have the disease. An estimated one-third of psoriasis sufferers have at least a member of their family with the disease.
- There are certain factors responsible for psoriasis flare-ups in people who have the genes in them. They include environmental factors such as alcoholism, smoking, sore throat, and sunburns. These factors exacerbate psoriasis by increasing the frequency of flares. Another factor that could trigger psoriasis is injury to the skin. For instance, a skin infection, inflammation on the skin, or even excessive scratching of the skin can bring on psoriasis. Some medications have been known to aggravate psoriasis too.
- Flare-ups can come and go or last for weeks or months.
In the United States, about 5.5 million people or 1%-2% of the population have plaque psoriasis. Of the people with plaque psoriasis, up to 10% of them also suffer psoriatic arthritis. The major symptom of psoriatic arthritis is an inflammation in the joints that could lead to a permanent damage of the joints if not treated aggressively.
Some recent studies indicate that most people with psoriasis are also prone to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity. Apparently, psoriasis has system effects, and is not just a skin disease.
In some cases, plaque psoriasis can evolve into more severe disease like pustular psoriasis which is characterized by red areas on the skin containing small blisters filled with pus. Another severe disease it can evolve into is erythrodermic psoriasis, where a wide area of red and scaling skin may be itchy and really uncomfortable.
What Treatments are Available for Psoriasis?
There are several systemic and topical treatments for psoriasis. However, bear in mind that although some of them may improve the appearance of psoriasis, none of them can cure the condition.
Can Biotin Really Help?
Biotin is gotten from foods such as avocado and eggs, and so, it is rare to suffer a deficiency. However, some symptoms of biotin deficiency include hair loss and skin rash. This is why some people believe biotin can cure psoriasis or at least, reduce its symptoms. Unfortunately, there is no conclusive scientific study to corroborate this.
Of course, biotin supplements are tolerable, so there’s no harm in trying them as a treatment option for psoriasis. But ensure you check with your doctor first, if you plan on having a child or are already pregnant.
What Else can Biotin Do?
Biotin is a B vitamin and is sometimes called vitamin H. This vitamin encourages healthy cell growth, helps the body in fats metabolism, strengthens brittle fingernails, and halts baldness in some cases. According to a 2015 study, biotin can also help in slowing the progress of multiple sclerosis.
There is no recommended daily intake of biotin supplements. However, 30 mcg per day is generally agreed to be ideal for the average adult.
What Other Supplements can help Alleviate Psoriasis Symptoms?
There are other supplements that could help psoriasis symptoms. But be careful of anything that claims to cure psoriasis because, currently, the skin condition has no cure.
However, here are some supplements to try for prosiasis:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis in some people is caused by a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fatty acids can be found in vegetable oils, some nuts, and salmon. They can also be taken in as supplements, which many already do. Omega-3 fatty acids also help in reducing inflammation and improving thinking as well as brain development.
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D is made up of several components, including two prescription medicines for psoriasis, Dovonex and Vectical, which are used on the skin. Although there isn’t enough research as to the effectiveness of using vitamin D supplements for psoriasis, but it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try. Additionally, vitamin D food sources include fish, eggs, and fortified milk.
Curcumin is the active component found in the herb called turmeric. It has a lot of health benefits, including reducing blood sugar and treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In studies of mice with psoriasis, curcumin was found to stop the growth of skin cells. Although, there is no established dosage, you can get curcumin in supplements and dietary turmeric.
The Bottom Line
People who have psoriasis will tell you how uncomfortable and frustrating it can be. However, it is important not to give up hope–your symptoms can actually be controlled. The trick is in finding the right combination of treatments, but it can be done. It is advisable to discuss with your doctor about any supplements or treatment you might be considering.