The Skin Nerd: What exactly is psoriasis?

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month and a time to draw attention to the chronic skin condition that affects over 73,000 Irish people
The Skin Nerd: What exactly is psoriasis?

'It’s still unclear how big of a role genetics play in psoriasis, but you’re more likely to suffer from the skin condition if one of your parents has it.'

Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that affects 2% of people in the UK and 73,000 people in Ireland. The skin disorder manifests as red, dry, and flaky patches of skin, which can appear anywhere, although the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back are hotspots. The patches can also feel sore and itchy.

The scaly patches occur when skin cells are produced and shed abnormally fast. Usually, skin proliferation — the process of skin cells reproducing and maturing — takes 28 days.

However, with psoriasis, skin-cell proliferation has rapidly sped up and only takes three to seven days. This causes a build-up of dead cells on the surface of the skin, which results in the red, raised patches of skin, otherwise called ‘plaque’.

It’s still unclear how big of a role genetics play in psoriasis, but you’re more likely to suffer from the skin condition if one of your parents has it — even more so if both of your parents do.

In fact, you have a 41% chance of developing psoriasis if both of your parents have it.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition. It’s believed that the body’s immune system is involved in the development of psoriasis and its consequent flare-ups.

Put simply, it’s the immune system’s job to defend us from infection and disease, but with psoriasis, the immune system accidentally attacks healthy skin cells.

Emotional stress, an infection, or certain medication can stimulate an abnormal immune response and the overproduction of skin cells, which results in dry, scaly patches.

Many sufferers find flare-ups of the skin condition emotionally debilitating, but targeted treatments can ease symptoms. The treatments cannot cure psoriasis, because it’s chronic, which means that it persists long-term or recurs frequently.

However, they can reduce inflammation and the appearance of dry patches.

Basic tips

Let’s start with basic skincare tips. First off, try to be very gentle with your skin: That means refraining from scrubbing it, showering and bathing in warm water that’s not boiling, and tapping your skin dry with a towel, instead of rubbing it.

Plus, skin can feel a little dry after showering, because of the humidity and warm water, so be sure to moisturise regularly to lock in hydration and keep any itchiness at bay.

Where treatments are concerned, your doctor might prescribe a topical cream or ointment that contains vitamin D analogues. Vitamin D diminishes dry patches by slowing down the rate that skin cells are being produced, which, in turn, reduces the amount of dead skin cells building up and patches from forming on the skin.

Corticosteroids are another type of topical treatment: They’re steroids applied directly to the skin, which help to bring down inflammation and irritation.

The steroids come in four strengths, with the strongest formulation only available by prescription.

If topical treatments don’t seem to work or if your condition is more severe, phototherapy can be used. The treatment involves exposing your skin to certain types of ultraviolet light.

The skin is an organ and should be treated as such. If you suspect you’re suffering from psoriasis, I advise that you book an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms.

Nerdie Pick

The Focus Care Comfort+ Anti-Pollution Masque contains charcoal clay and kaolin clay to absorb impurities in the skin.
The Focus Care Comfort+ Anti-Pollution Masque contains charcoal clay and kaolin clay to absorb impurities in the skin.

There’s no denying that clay masks feel like the ultimate pampering skincare product. This Environ Focus Care Comfort+ Anti-Pollution Masque is formulated to absorb the pollutant particles that can cause damage to the skin when left unattended. 

It contains Japanese charcoal and kaolin clay to draw debris out of the skin, a potent antioxidant to protect the skin from free radical damage caused by pollution, and shea butter to hydrate the skin.

Use the mask one to three times a week for the best results. I like to apply a cherry-sized amount and leave it on for 20 minutes – it's particularly great for oily-skinned people.

Environ Focus Care Comfort+ Anti-Pollution Masque (€52, theskinnerd.com).

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