Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the skin. In this condition the rate of skin production becomes accelerated, and instead of cells normally being replaced every 3-4 wks, in psoriasis the skin cycle is 3-7 days. This results in thick silvery scales, dryness and red patches.
In the UK around 2% of people are affected by psoriasis. It affects both men and women equally and can start at any age , most commonly in adults under the age of 35 yrs. There are a number of contributing causes; a family history, lowered immune system, stress, obesity and smoking increase the risk of developing psoriasis. The severity varies from person to person.
Symptoms of Psoriasis
The immune system mistakes cells of the skin as a pathogen and acts as if it is fighting an infection or healing a wound. This causes an inflammatory response leading to increased rate of skin cell causing the formation of psoriatic plaques, usually seen as thick dry silvery scales or red patches that can be itchy and painful. This is a chronic disease with intervals of improvement or remission. For some people it is no more than a nuisance, but for others is can be quite disabling, particularly when it is accompanied arthritis.
Treatment of Psoriasis
Psoriasis cannot be cured but symptoms can be improved. Each treatment is unique to the individual. Conventional medical treatments includes initially the use of topical skin creams and ointments (vitamin D and corticosteriods). For more severe cases, phototherapy using ultraviolet light is used. Finally, systemic treatments using oral drugs or biologic injections.
Integrative & Complementary medicine treatment
There are a number of complementary therapies that could help to ease the symptoms of psoriasis including diet and lifestyle changes, dietary supplements, herbs and creams and oils to reduce itching and scaling. The main aim would be to reduce any potential allergens, elimination of toxins, management of stress and supportive skin creams.
Acupuncture is understood to stimulate the nervous system thereby causing biochemical changes that help to re-balance the body’s homeostatic (including immune and hormone function). Areas of the brain relating to pain and stress are are also affected. In psoriasis acupuncture will help to reduce inflammation, regulate biochemicals responsible for allergic reactions, enhance immune system natural killer cell activities and increase the local circulation to help disperse inflammatory products. Collectively these in turn enhances overall physical and mental well-being.
Nutrition: Essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 normally found in fish oil may help to reduce inflammation.
Aromatherapy & Massage: A variety of essential oils have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifunicidal properties (e.g. lavender, German chamomile, tea tree). Massage carrier oils such as sweet almond is highly nutritious, and apricot kernal, avocado and evening primrose are a good source of essential fatty acids, whilst avocado oil is also rich in vitamine A, D. Massage reduces stress and improves general body circulation as well as locally in the affected areas.