Psoriasis can be itchy, uncomfortable, and flare up at the worst times. Learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment options available for you.

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Psoriasis: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatments

05/23/20228 min read

If you have psoriasis, you're not alone. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, over 8 million Americans suffer from this condition, and it’s thought to impact 2-3% of the world’s population.

With so many people struggling to treat psoriasis symptoms, our goal at Bodewell is to provide up-to-date, actionable advice to help you feel your best.

In this guide to psoriasis, we look at the symptoms that accompany this skin condition, examine the common causes, and share the best ways to treat it.

What Is Psoriasis?

Person scratching hands with psoriasis

You may have heard that psoriasis is a skin condition. However, that’s not the whole story.

Psoriasis is a condition that affects your entire body. It’s an autoimmune disease, which means your immune system attacks healthy cells by mistake.

When you have psoriasis, your immune system triggers new skin cells to form too quickly. Typically, it takes about a month for new skin cells to move from the bottom layer of your skin to the top. But, for someone with psoriasis, that process happens much faster.

The result is a build-up of skin cells on the surface of your skin. These extra skin cells form thick, scaly patches that can itch and cause pain.

There are several different types of psoriasis. The most common type is plaque psoriasis, but others include guttate psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis, and psoriatic arthritis. People can have multiple types of psoriasis at the same time.

Psoriasis is also a chronic condition, meaning it can’t be cured. However, some treatments can help you manage your symptoms and feel your best.

Symptoms Of Psoriasis

Psoriasis on both elbows

The most common symptom of psoriasis is patches of thick, scaly skin. These patches are called plaques, and they can be small or large. Plaques can also appear on any body part, but they’re commonly found on the scalp, knees, elbows, and lower back.

Plaques caused by psoriasis typically have well-defined edges. They may be white, silver, or red, but no matter what color they are, they’re often itchy and painful. In some cases, plaques can even crack and bleed.

Other common symptoms of psoriasis include:

  • Pitted, crumbly, or thickened nails
  • Joint pain
  • Burning or soreness

There are also less common symptoms, such as pus-filled blisters and thinning hair.

One type of psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis, can cause a red scaly rash to cover your body. This can be excruciating. Since it causes your body to lose its ability to regulate temperature, it’s considered a medical emergency. Seek help right away if you develop this symptom.

Causes Of Psoriasis

The cause of psoriasis isn’t fully understood. However, we do know that it’s not contagious — meaning you can’t catch it from another person.

Experts believe psoriasis is the result of a faulty immune system. In people with psoriasis, the immune system overreacts, causing inflammation. This inflammation triggers the rapid growth of new skin cells that we mentioned earlier.

Once you have psoriasis, it typically goes through cycles. There may be times when your symptoms are mild and other times when they may be severe. The flare-ups can last for weeks or months at a time.

Some common triggers of psoriasis are:

  • Stress
  • Cold, dry weather
  • Injury to the skin, such as cuts or sunburns
  • Illnesses that affect your immune system

Since triggers can be unique to each individual, tracking your symptoms is essential. This process can help you identify what causes your psoriasis symptoms to flare up so you can work to avoid the triggers in the future.

Risk Factors For Developing Psoriasis

A happy family smiles at the camera

Psoriasis can affect people of all ages. While most people with this condition get diagnosed between 15 and 35, children and older adults can also have it.

There are a few things that can increase your risk of developing psoriasis, including:

  • Family history
  • Your environment
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes

It’s important to note that none of these factors guarantee you’ll develop psoriasis, but they may increase your chances.

Tips For Treating Psoriasis Symptoms

Dermatologist examines psoriasis on man’s arm

Even though there is no cure for psoriasis, the right treatments can help you manage your symptoms and feel your best.

Use A Topical Treatment

Man sprays psoriasis treatment on arm

Topical treatments are applied directly to the skin. They’re usually the first line of treatment for mild to moderate psoriasis.

These can come in the form of creams, ointments, gels, or sprays. They contain special ingredients to help reduce inflammation, slow skin cell growth, or remove dead skin cells. You can find some of these options over the counter, but others require a prescription.

Effective topical treatments typically contain one or more of the following components:

Psoriasis Soothing Spray from Bodewell combines the gentle skin exfoliating properties of salicylic acid with a unique blend of 22 botanical ingredients. These clinically proven active ingredients start to work on day one to help relieve psoriasis symptoms.

Soak In A Bath Every Day

Soaking in the tub for at least 15 minutes each day can help soften your skin and make it easier to remove dead skin cells. It can also help reduce inflammation and itching.

For best results, use a mild soap or a sensitive skin body wash and avoid hot water. You may also want to add some colloidal oatmeal or Epsom salt to your bathtub to help soothe your skin.

After you’re out of the bath, give Bodewell’s Psoriasis Scalp Relief Treatment a try. This oil-free formula helps relieve the itch and flaking that often accompany scalp plaques.

Keep Your Skin Moisturized

Person applying cream to their dry skin

Dry skin can make psoriasis symptoms worse. That’s why it’s essential to keep your skin moisturized.

You can do this by applying a moisturizer every day to lock in hydration and prevent your skin from drying out. If you have psoriasis, look for an oil-free product that doesn’t contain fragrances or other potentially irritating ingredients.

Our moisturizing Psoriasis Calming Cream is a great option. The salicylic acid and special botanical blend can help provide relief of itching, irritation, redness, flaking, and scaling associated with psoriasis.

Avoid Symptom Triggers

As we mentioned earlier, certain things can trigger psoriasis symptoms. These triggers vary from person to person. Once you've identified your triggers, you can take steps to avoid them.

You may need to make lifestyle changes. For example, if you're a smoker, your body will have an easier time healing if you quit.

You can also look for ways to reduce stress in your life. Unfortunately, stress can worsen psoriasis symptoms, so take time to relax regularly.

Try A Light Therapy Session

Woman undergoing light therapy for psoriasis

Light therapy is also called phototherapy. Some doctors recommend this treatment for patients with mild to moderate psoriasis since it can help slow skin cell growth. It's also thought to relieve inflammation.

How does this work?

Phototherapy takes place in a doctor's or dermatologist's office and requires sitting in a special booth or under a light panel for a set time. The length of your treatment depends on your skin condition and the type of phototherapy you're receiving.

One type of phototherapy, called NBUVB therapy, involves using a special light that emits ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Another type is called PUVA therapy and involves using a lamp that emits ultraviolet A (UVA) rays and taking a particular medication before your session.

While this may sound overwhelming, your doctor can help you decide which type of phototherapy is right for you.

Expose Your Skin To Limited Sunlight

Sunlight can help improve psoriasis symptoms. Just make sure you don’t overdo it because too much sun can make your symptoms worse.

Start by spending a few minutes in the sun each day. You can gradually increase the amount of time you spend in the sun as your skin gets used to it.

We also recommend using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to protect your skin from harmful rays. This way, you don’t develop other skin problems from too much exposure.

Take Medication By Mouth Or Injection

If your psoriasis is more severe, you may need to take oral or injectable medications. Doctors often wait on this type of treatment until you've tried other options first. But if your symptoms aren't improving, this may be the best solution.

Oral medications can help slow skin cell growth and reduce inflammation. These include methotrexate, cyclosporine, acitretin, and apremilast.

Injectable medications are also used to reduce inflammation. They're injected directly into your skin by your doctor or nurse and include biologics such as adalimumab, certolizumab pegol, etanercept, and infliximab.

Medications like these can improve your psoriasis symptoms, but they can also cause serious side effects. That's why it's important to talk to your doctor before starting any type of medication.

Better Skin Is In Your Future

Doctor looking at a woman’s psoriasis

If you have psoriasis, don't lose hope — you can experience good skin days again.

There are many treatments available to help improve your symptoms and keep your flare-ups in check. For example, our psoriasis products are specifically designed to help you manage your psoriasis and improve the health of your skin.

No matter what type of psoriasis you have or how bad your symptoms are, better skin days are ahead!

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