What is Plaque Psoriasis?
Plaque psoriasis is a very common form of psoriasis where the skin becomes red, flaky and develops silver colored scales. This type of psoriasis affects approximately 2 to 3 % of the population. It generally comes on between the ages of 15 and 25. It is caused by a disruption in the immune system and there is no cure for the condition.
The skin grows quickly around the outer area of the joints. (See Figure 1) The knees, elbows palms, genitals and scalp are most often affected. Plaque psoriasis can also cause a type of arthritis in 10 to 30% of psoriasis patients. It will last the lifetime of the patient and re-occurs even with aggressive treatment. The disease does tend to “flare” at times and get better during periods of less stress and illness.
Figure 1: Plaque Psoriasis
Photo Courtesy of: taclonex.com
This type of psoriasis has severe impacts on emotional health, as well as quality of life. Many people are embarrassed by the skin condition and also suffer from discomfort.
What causes Plaque Psoriasis?
The cause of psoriasis is thought to be autoimmune and also has a genetic factor. There are also factors thought to trigger psoriasis such as; chemical exposure, injury to the skin and stress. People can also get psoriasis after stopping steroid medications. Cold weather, smoking and alcohol use can also trigger psoriasis.
There is also speculation that plaque psoriasis is a skin condition unto itself where the skin overproduces skin cells too quickly resulting in the “scaly” appearance. (See Figure 2) People who have a problem with the outer skin layer have a higher risk of plaque psoriasis.
Figure 2: Plaque Scales
Photo Courtesy of: infoderm.com
Another risk factor is diseases that compromise the immune system like AIDS. AIDS affects the immune system and when the CD4 and T cell counts are disrupted the skin may react. AIDS plaque psoriasis can be very difficult to treat and even place the patient at risk for infections in the skin.
What are the symptoms of Plaque Psoriasis?
The symptoms of plaque psoriasis are very similar to other forms of psoriasis including:
- Red Skin
- Dry skin
- Silver scale patches
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Cracked Skin
- Thickened nails
Symptoms of plaque psoriasis can easily be mistaken for other forms of psoriasis or other skin conditions. The symptoms are very similar to Candidiasis of the skin, hives and general skin rashes. This is why thorough evaluation by a physician that understands skin conditions is necessary.
Symptoms are ranked in order of severity ranging from; mild, moderate to severe. Some people have significant disability and loss of function to extremities if psoriasis is severe enough. This include when it occurs on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
How is Plaque Psoriasis diagnosed?
There is no specific blood test for plaque psoriasis. The doctor will do a physical examination and will most likely need to biopsy the skin using a special biopsy punch to confirm the diagnosis. (See Figure 3)The testing may come from your regular doctor or you may be referred to a special skin doctor called a Dermatologist.
Figure 3: Skin Biopsy
Photo Courtesy of: beliefnet.com
Getting the proper diagnosis will help your doctor and you decide on the right treatment. Every skin rash is treated differently and psoriasis requires specialized treatment over a lifetime. You may even be referred to an arthritis doctor that deals with inflammation if you have symptoms of arthritis with your plaque psoriasis.
What is the treatment for Plaque Psoriasis?
Plaque psoriasis has been around since diseases have been recorded. In ancient times, there were many different treatments for psoriasis and these included; honey, sea salt, viper venom and onions. These treatments may still be used in alternative medicine, but not commonly by physicians.
Medical treatments today focus on reducing inflammation in the body and to the skin. Patients who experience plaque psoriasis due to steroid use may receive lower doses and the doctor may choose to withdraw the patient very slowly.
Other treatments include:
- Dietary Modification including; vegetarian diets, low-stress diets and diets high in Omega 3 fatty acids can help the skin.
- Topical Treatments using creams that contain steroids is often used, but the creams need to be used sparingly and for short periods to prevent steroid dependence. Skin moisturizers containing; coal tar, mineral oil and petrolatum are helpful in keeping skin moist.
- Immune System Medications For people that need more than topical treatment doctors can prescribe immune system drugs that help slow the body’s immune response and slow the growth of skin. These drugs can affect the liver and the blood and need to be very closely monitored by blood testing.
- Exposure to Sunlight has been found to be very effective in treating plaque psoriasis. Exposure to ultraviolet light can slow down the production of skin cells. This is done with special lights that are specifically for psoriasis treatment.
- Vitamin D Creams can help plaque psoriasis by slowing down the production of skin cells.
- Salicylic Acid or the very same ingredient as aspirin but in cream form can help to remove dead skin cells and remove the plaque areas from the skin. This is very effective in helping to clear unsightly spots and is a common ingredient in dandruff shampoo. It is also one of the most least expensive treatments.
- Laser Treatments can either remove plaques or completely disable the blood vessels that contribute to the plaques depending on the type of laser used. This therapy does have side effects such as; bruising and increased recovery time.
How is Plaque Psoriasis prevented?
First, it needs to be understood that there is no way to prevent the onset of psoriasis. There is never any way of knowing the triggers of this disease. However, there are ways to help prevent re-occurring flare-ups.
Avoiding medications that may cause a flare unless absolutely necessary. Inform all of your doctors that you have plaque psoriasis so your medication dosages can be adjusted or the doctor can find another medication.
Take good care of your skin. Keep your skin moist and get some sunlight every day. Also, try to avoid injury to the skin to keep it from overproducing skin cells while healing.
Figure 4: Healthy Diet
Photo Courtesy of: livestrong.com
Modify your lifestyle and your diet. (See Figure 4)Avoid stress and eat healthy. You will need to moderate or quit alcohol use and quit smoking if you can. Get plenty of rest and exercise and your entire body will thank you for the changes!