Psoriasis is a lifelong skin condition and living with it can be difficult and stressful on some days. Everyday life with psoriasis can seem challenging for patients, family and caregivers. Nonetheless, with the right medication and lifestyle changes, patients can enjoy a fulfilling life. Staying positive and not becoming self-conscious about it are just as important.
Psoriasis usually affects people in their thirties or forties. In India, it is twice as common in men than in women. Contrary to what some people think, the condition is not contagious. It is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy skin cells that are then replaced at an abnormally rapid rate, in 14 days rather than the usual three to four weeks. This causes a buildup of dead cells that are visible on the surface of the skin as red, itchy patches, commonly called plaques. Typically, these patches appear on the scalp, knees, lower back or elbows, though they may be seen anywhere on the body. The plaques may vary in size and may either appear as a single patch or may merge to form a larger patch. Other symptoms of psoriasis include dry and cracked skin or skin that feels sore, besides a burning sensation and swollen or stiff joints.
Today we have a number of treatment options for psoriasis, including topical skin creams, pills and injections that can be prescribed by a dermatologist. Here are some tips to help you manage the condition better:
Care for your skin: Use the right skin moisturiser to reduce itchiness, dryness and scaling. Bathe with lukewarm water and a mild soap to ease the itch and get rid of dry skin. After a wash or bath, gently pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it with a towel.
Quit smoking: Giving up cigarettes and other forms of tobacco may help to reduce the occurrence of flares.
Live an active life: If you are overweight, losing the extra weight through regular exercise can help your treatment work better and could also reduce the need for some medicines.
How you can help someone living with psoriasis
Read up about the disease: A lot of people do not know enough about psoriasis. They think it is contagious, which is not true. Instead, learn more about psoriasis, its causes, triggers and treatment.
Do not stare: One of the worst things you can do if someone has psoriasis is to stare at their skin patches or rash. This can cause the patient to become self-conscious and embarrassed. Instead, ignore the rash and make eye contact while speaking or working with them.
Offer help: If a loved one has psoriasis, make yourself available to help out whenever possible. Do not assume to know what they need, but ask how you can be of help.
Be alert to new symptoms: Patients with psoriasis are at a higher risk of being depressed. If you notice that the patient is persistently sad or unwilling to take part in any form of social activities, it may be a sign of depression. In such a situation, gently encourage the patient to visit the doctor.
The writer is chief consultant and dermatologist, Skinvita Clinic, Kolkata.