Psoriasis: Causes and fixes for the life-changing skin condition

There isn't yet a cure for psoriasis, but there are ways of managing it.

Psoriasis can be one of the most irritating skin conditions, and unlike other disorders that we can hide or mask, psoriasis tends to be noticeable.

Frustratingly, the condition is unpredictable, meaning that it can flare up at any time.

As people living with the condition will know, it’s caused by having skin cells that multiply much quicker than normal. When these cells underneath the skin’s surface die, they rise up and leave the skin looking red, inflamed, and often scaly. In some cases, the skin can even take on a silver or grey colour.

It’s often extremely irritating and painful, with the skin cracking and bleeding in serious cases. 

If you or a loved one have recently developed psoriasis, all these mixed messages can be confusing. Here’s some helpful basics for you to get to grips with.

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What causes it?

Like many medical conditions, there is no one explanation when it comes to the cause of psoriasis, however, a lot of research points the finger at our genes.

It is believed that a tenth of the population actually carry the gene that could lead to psoriasis, but only 3 per cent of those will actually develop into the skin condition.

Other studies suggest that it’s actually our immune system sending wrong messages to our skin cells, causing skin to grow at a faster rate than normal.

You can’t catch psoriasis by touching or interacting with someone else who has it. 

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Are there triggers?

While it’s not yet known exactly what causes psoriasis, various research has concluded that there are certain triggers that can make the skin condition worse for those living with it.

Adding further confusion to the disease, the triggers don’t always impact those with psoriasis in the same way. This means that one person living with the condition could be influenced by one factor, while another with the same condition isn’t.

According to Psoriasis Australia, stress is one of the leading causes of a psoriasis flare-up. The organisation recommends trying to relax and to reduce stress from your life where possible.

Cooler weather doesn’t do people living with the condition many favours, with windy conditions known to dry skin and irritate psoriasis further.

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Skin injuries are also another major trigger, with the smallest of scratches such as injections or sunburn known to aggravate psoriasis. If you are spending a lot of time in the sun, be mindful that this is going to impact your condition as well.

Because it’s believed that the condition has a lot to do with the immune system, it’s important to try and avoid infections and illness when you can. While it’s not always possible to avoid a flu or a cold, people generally find that they notice a flare-up when they’re feeling under the weather.

There are also certain medications that are linked to a flare-up, including, but not limited to, indomethacin, quinidine, lithium, antimalarial, and inderal.

Is there a cure?

While there isn’t yet a cure for psoriasis, there are various ways to manage the condition. It’s always important to speak with your doctor before testing treatments on yourself, however.

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Typically, prescribed creams, shampoos, ointments and moisturisers that are high in Vitamin D and A can be applied directly to the affected areas. Some more extreme cases contain drugs that specifically target the body’s immune system.

Others find that their psoriasis is so severe that they require phototherapy to help them get better.

What more can I do?

If you’ve been living with psoriasis, there are small things you can do to try and prevent your condition from getting out of control.

It’s important to keep your skin as moist as possible by using creams and moisturisers. Although the temptation can be there to pick or itch at your sores, it’s vital that you try to avoid this. Doing so can actually be making your condition worse.

As we mentioned earlier, it’s good to try and keep the stressful situations to a minimum, and avoid spending too much time in the direct sun.

Do you live with psoriasis? How do you manage the condition when you have a flair up?