Controlling psoriasis… And making sure your treatment really works for you

Psoriasis affects around 2-3% of people in the UK, with about a third developing the condition during their childhood. The best way to deal with psoriasis isn’t to fit your life around your treatment… it’s to fit your treatment around your life. That way psoriasis won’t stop you from doing the things that you need to do or enjoy.

So what is psoriasis?

The most common age to develop psoriasis is between 11 and 45 years, but it can occur at any age and affect men and women equally. Psoriasis can be a hereditary condition that for some people is relatively mild affecting only small areas, while for others it can be much worse.

Psoriasis is caused by a speeding up of the normal skin cell replacement process. Usually, skin cells take about 21- 28 days to replace themselves, but in psoriasis they’re replaced much quicker - every 2-6 days. This leads to a build-up of skin cells on the surface of the skin called a plaque. Plaques are small red patches of skin covered in silvery scales, which can vary in shape and size but have well defined edges. They cause the skin to be itchy, painful, sore, red, scaly and irritating.

There are different types of psoriasis. 80% of people with psoriasis have plaque psoriasis which affects their elbows, knees, lower back and scalp, although it can affect any area on the body. Guttate psoriasis is more common in children and teenagers. It often follows a throat infection and appears as a much smaller, more generalised rash of scaly patches up to 1cm2. Other types of psoriasis include scalp, flexural, pustular, erythrodermic, arthritic psoriasis and psoriasis of the nail.

How you can help manage your psoriasis… Reducing flare-ups and soothing your symptoms
  1. Make a note of anything you think may have triggered a flare-up and try to avoid it in the future.
  2. Try not to scratch, even if it feels itchy, as this only makes the itching worse, and keep your fingernails cut short to minimise damage.
  3. Establish a treatment regime but don’t let it rule your life.
  4. Apply emollients regularly and generously to moisturise your skin, reduce itching and even allow other preparations to work more effectively.
  5. Use emollients as soap substitutes in the bath or shower instead of fragranced bubble bath or shower gel – they don’t lather but they cleanse just as effectively and moisturise your skin at the same time.
  6. Apply topical steroids thinly during flare-ups to reduce inflammation.
  7. Coal tar preparations can be used to treat scalp psoriasis – they can stain or be smelly, but they are effective.
  8. Ask your doctor about other treatments that can help: these include Vitamin D analogues, which in the long-term can promote normal cell growth; Dithranol which can be used on specific plaques for short-term therapy; and Vitamin A derivatives, for use on well-defined plaques.
  9. Make sure you have regular reviews with you nurse or GP or dermatologist.
  10. If you have any concerns at all about your psoriasis, speak to the pharmacy team or your doctor.
Your child’s psoriasis… What you can do to help
  1. Talk to your child about their psoriasis and encourage them to be involved in managing it.
  2. If bedtime itching is disrupting your child’s sleep, keep the bedroom cool (18°C) and use cotton linen and nightwear. You can also talk to your doctor about wraps, bandages or having some sedating antihistamines prescribed on a short-term basis to reduce night-time itching.
  3. Keep your child included in all decisions about their treatment.
  4. Tell your child’s teachers and/or carers about their condition and make sure they always have some emollient with them.
Know your triggers

Environmental factors can ‘trigger’ psoriasis or make existing psoriasis worse. In some cases the trigger is obvious, but sometimes it takes a little longer to work out. Triggers can include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Stress and emotional upset
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol in excess
  • General illness
  • Changes in climate
  • Weakened immune system
  • Puberty, menopause, pregnancy
  • Infection
  • Injury to skin, ie a scratch, Sunburn
  • Bites
Find out more…

Touch is a programme that’s available to all psoriasis suffers aged 18 and over. Its website offers information and advice about psoriasis, and if you sign up for free you’ll receive support, magazines and access to a confidential phone line where you can speak directly to a specialist nurse. Find out more by visiting The National Psoriasis Society also aims to help people whose lives are affected by psoriasis.
Visit for more information.

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