It’s fitting that August is National Psoriasis Awareness Month, especially when you consider that the plentiful summer sun this month serves as natural medication for the irritated skin of psoriasis. Sun exposure (just a half hour a day) can help the 7.5 million Americans suffering from psoriasis.
Psoriasis is a common skin condition that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, reddened skin covered with silvery scales. Psoriasis occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that affect the life cycle of skin cells: skin cells, which should normally take weeks growing to maturity deep beneath the surface of the skin, instead rise to the skin’s surface and form red patches of dry, itchy scales.
Although the exact cause of psoriasis is not known, psoriasis tends to run in families. It is thought to develop from a complex interaction between an immune system malfunction, the environment, and genetics. A type of white blood cell in the immune system, called a T cell, mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells. Overactive T cells then trigger other immune responses that result in inflammation and a rapid turnover of skin cells.
Psoriasis flare ups can be triggered by:
- Infection (such as strep throat)
- Skin injury such as a sunburn or cut
- Cold weather
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Medication use (beta-blockers, lithium, or antimalarial drugs)
A common treatment plan for psoriasis is called the “1-2-3” approach.
- Application of topical creams and ointments, such as corticosteroids, vitamin D analogues, anthralin, topical retinoids, calcineurin inhibitors, salicylic acid, coal tar, and/or a moisturizer.
- Skin exposure to natural or artificial ultraviolet light. The light causes the activated T cells in the skin to die, which slows down the cell turnover that is a problem in psoriasis. Limit sun exposure to avoid sunburn.
- Oral medications or injections of medications, including retinoids, methotrexate, cyclosporine, hydroxyurea, immunomodulating drugs (such as Humira, Stelara, or Enbrel), and thioguanine. Therapy for severe and extensive plaque disease is when a Specialty Pharmacy such as BioPlus is needed.
With psoriasis, although no cure is available, long term remission is possible.
- 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis – making it the most common autoimmune disease
- Most likely age of disease onset: 15-25 years old
- Most likely age of onset for psoriatic arthritis: 30-50 years old
- 25 percent of psoriasis cases are considered moderate to severe
- Total health care costs (both direct and indirect) reach $11.25 billion annually
* Statistics from The National Psoriasis Foundation
What do you think
I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.
Stephen C Vogt, PharmD
President and CEO BioPlus SP