Autoimmune disease psoriasis affects an estimated 7.5 million Americans, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.1This chronic inflammatory condition brings the burden of physical symptoms along with the social stigma and emotional fallout of dealing with self-esteem issues due to the visible nature of the problem. Regardless of whether you have plaque psoriasis or another variant of the problem, a priority is finding a solution – whether through mainstream treatment or alternative medicine and remedies to alleviate the condition.
What Is Plaque Psoriasis?
While psoriasis is painted with a broad palette in most literature on the condition, there are actually about five different variants of the problem. And plaque psoriasis is one of the most common. For those affected, the skin develops silvery or red raised patches of skin. This tends to happen more on the scalp, elbows, knees, and the lower back. Besides causing discomfort due to itchiness, affected areas can crack or even bleed and become painful.2
About 80 to 90 percent of all cases of psoriasis are plaque psoriasis. Other kinds include Guttate psoriasis characterized by dot-like lesions, Pustular psoriasis with pustules, Inverse psoriasis appearing in skin folds leaving it shiny and smooth, and the more severe Erythrodermic psoriasis where the patient has severe itching and pain accompanying a “fiery redness” across the body.3
How Is Plaque Psoriasis Treated?
The treatment depends on the severity of the plaque psoriasis. For those who have a mild to moderate form, a combination of topical treatments or phototherapy is usually adequate to provide relief and ease symptoms. Those with more severe forms of the condition may need prescription drugs called Systemic Medication which can be administered via infusion, injection, or consumed orally.
1. Topical Treatment
For the bulk of those with plaque psoriasis, the condition affects under 5 percent of the body area. For this form of the condition, topical treatment is usually effective. Such treatments are quite safe to use with limited side effects. OTC medicines as well as prescription medication like corticosteroids may be used.4
- Corticosteroids: These topical steroids are anti-inflammatory and get rid of the redness and swelling that’s characteristic of plaque psoriasis. 5
- Non-steroidal topicals: These non-steroidal medications are usually derived from Vitamin A and synthetic Vitamin D3. Anthralin cream may also be used to control lesions.6Calcipotriene formulations(synthetic vitamin D3) can help remove scales, flatten lesions, and even slow down skin cell growth. Besides other body parts it can also be used on your scalp or nails.7
- OTC products: There are products incorporating coal tar and salicylic acid that have been given FDA approval to treat plaque psoriasis, and you don’t need a prescription for these.8
- Aloe Vera/Jojoba: To soothe the itchiness and moisturize the area that has become dry and scaly, natural products like aloe vera or jojoba also work well.9
- Apple cider vinegar has been known to help soothe plaque psoriasis of the scalp when used as a rinse.10
- Epsom salts or dead sea salts in your bathwater can also help ease itchiness across the body. Put your chosen remedy in the bathwater and soak in it for about 15 minutes. When you’re done, apply some oil or moisturizer to lock in the moisture and keep skin soft.11
When the spread of the psoriasis is more extensive, in addition to the topical treatment, phototherapy may also be used. During the treatment, the parts of the body affected are exposed to ultraviolet light by a trained medical practitioner using a special phototherapy device. This therapy is believed to help plaque psoriasis due to multiple mechanisms including the induction of apoptosis or cell death of the skin cells responsible for the trademark scaliness and raised patches, down-regulating inflammatory pathways, and promoting immunosuppression.12
Natural Ways To Help Your Body
There are also some things you can do to cut the dryness and ease itching. Even though these are not treatments they can prevent you inadvertently aggravating already sore skin.
- Avoid heavy alcohol consumption which is a possible trigger13
- Quit smoking to avoid aggravating your condition.14
- Lower stress levels. According to the National Institutes of Health, high stress levels can make psoriasis worse.15You could use Yoga, Tai Chi, Aromatherapy, or even Acupuncture and massage to ease stress. Ayurvedic remedies like Ashwagandha may also help lower stress levels.16
- Try not to shower or soak in a bath for more than ten minutes. If you’re doing a therapeutic bath with Epsom salts or oil, don’t go beyond 15 minutes. 17
- Stick to fragrance-free soaps, creams, and bath products to prevent irritating your skin further.18
- Always moisturize after washing your hands or having a bath or shower19
- Switch to soaps that have in-built moisturizers20
|↑1||Psoriasis. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑2||Plaque Psoriasis. National Psoriasis Foundation.|
|↑3||About Psoriasis. National Psoriasis Foundation.|
|↑4, ↑5||Menter, Alan, Alice Gottlieb, Steven R. Feldman, Abby S. Van Voorhees, Craig L. Leonardi, Kenneth B. Gordon, Mark Lebwohl et al. “Guidelines of care for the management of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis: Section 1. Overview of psoriasis and guidelines of care for the treatment of psoriasis with biologics.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 58, no. 5 (2008): 826-850.|
|↑6, ↑8||Topical Treatments. National Psoriasis Foundation.|
|↑7||Mild Psoriasis: Non-steroidal Prescription Topical Treatments. National Psoriasis Foundation.|
|↑9, ↑10||Herbs/Natural Remedies. National Psoriasis Foundation.|
|↑11, ↑17, ↑18, ↑19, ↑20||Over the counter, not over your head. National Psoriasis Foundation.|
|↑12||Wong, Tami, Leon Hsu, and Wilson Liao. “Phototherapy in psoriasis: a review of mechanisms of action.” Journal of cutaneous medicine and surgery 17, no. 1 (2013): 6-12.|
|↑13||Psoriasis – Causes. NHS.|
|↑14||Psoriasis: Tips For ManagingThe American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑15||Psoriasis. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑16||Umadevi, M. “Traditional and medicinal uses of Withania somnifera.” The Pharma Innovation 1, no. 9 (2012).|