August 26, 2021 3 min read
A stinging, burning sensation that says you have psoriasis
Psoriasis is a skin condition that affects around 74,000 people in Ireland and, like eczema, is linked to your immune system. Sometimes psoriasis and eczema can be difficult to tell apart and a test is required, but often your doctor will be able to tell which you have simply by looking at the condition of your skin.
Psoriasis produces red patches of itchy skin, but you could also feel a stinging or burning sensation and develop silvery, scaly patches and areas of thickened and severely inflamed skin. Your joints could feel stiff and swollen. It is more likely to occur on your scalp, face, back, palms and soles of your feet, but you can also get it in your mouth or on your nails.
Most people develop eczema when they are babies and many children eventually grow out of it, but psoriasis is a lifelong condition that tends to appear between the ages of 15 and 35. Skin cells develop in the lower layers of the skin and work their way to the surface of your dermis, where they flake off. This process normally takes 3-4 weeks. In psoriasis, however, this process takes 3-7 days.
The attack-react-attack cycle that wreaks havoc with your skin
The acceleration of the production of skin cells is caused by the T cell – cells which the body produces to fight off infection. In psoriasis, they attack healthy skin cells by mistake. The body starts producing more skin cells in reaction – then more T cells are produced to attack the new skin cells. Cells which are not fully mature build up on the surface of the skin, causing typical red patches and silvery build-up.
It is thought this cycle is caused by genetic and/or environmental factors. As with eczema, psoriasis has triggers which can set off an attack. This can be stress, an infection, or an injury to your skin – even something as seemingly insignificant as a scratch. Excessive drinking, smoking, overweight, hormonal changes, certain medicines, throat infections and immune disorders can all act as triggers.
Treatment can calm things down – and even put you in remission
Most types of psoriasis go through cycles, flaring for a few weeks or months, then subsiding for a time or even going into complete remission. It is not contagious and, normally, it can be treated by your GP. In severe cases, you will be referred to a dermatologist. It is important to pinpoint what works best for you. The GP will usually start with a mild, topical cream to see how that goes before deciding to move on to stronger treatments.
Mild topical creams are helpful in mild to moderate cases. You may also be prescribed UV light therapy, Vitamin D infused creams, oral/injected medications, or biologics which alter your immune system. The different treatment regimes can be used in combination to achieve the best outcome for you. Incorporating specific lifestyle habits and coping strategies will also enable you to manage the condition more successfully.
Self-help measures include taking daily baths to remove scales and calm inflamed skin. Some people find that adding oats, Epsom salts or low strength coal tar products to their bathwater helps ease inflammation. Adding a little Elave Baby Oil can help (be careful, this can cause slippiness) but stay away from soaps, harsh chemicals, bubble bath etc. Touch-warm water is best – too hot and it can dry your skin. Soak for no more than 15 minutes, to avoid dehydration.
A good post-bath routine will soothe and hydrate sensitive skin
After bathing, pat yourself dry and apply a good quality, unscented moisturiser while your skin is still moist. During cold, dry weather, you may need to apply a moisturiser several times a day. Expose your skin to short bursts of sunlight and always protect it with Elave Sun SPF 50. Wear cotton and other lightweight, natural fibres – but avoid scratchy woollen garments. Combat stress through mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Gardiner Family Apothecary make Silcock’s Base under the Ovelle brand and you will find all Elave Skincare products pure and gentle enough to use with psoriasis, especially the wash and shampoos/conditioners. An outstanding product is Elave Intensive Ointment, a steroid-free formulation which reduces flare-ups and softens the plaques (skin build-up).
Elave Intensive Ointment’s50% liquid paraffin, 30% white soft paraffin formula can be applied as often as required. It soothes red, inflamed, damaged, dry, itchy or chapped skin by replacing the skin's oils, forming a waterproof barrier to prevent further dehydration, and moisturising to soothe and protect.
Elave Skincare and Ovelle ranges of dermatologically-approved free-from natural products are available at gardinerfamilyapothecary.com, Tesco, Boots, Dunnes Beauty and community pharmacies.
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