Considered a common condition, psoriasis affects 2-3% of the world’s population and more than 7.5 million people in the United States. Like all autoimmune disorders, psoriasis is caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors.
It’s important to note that having one autoimmune disorder means you have a higher risk of getting another one, which is why it’s important to make an appointment with your doctor for an official diagnosis when you start experiencing symptoms.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder that can range from mild to severe with potential for serious complications that can prove disabling or even fatal.
All types of psoriasis involve an abnormal autoimmune response where the immune system will suddenly and seemingly inexplicably attack normal skin cells leading to inflammation. The inflammation causes the cells to multiply at a faster-than-normal rate and build up faster than they can be shed.
Many different types of psoriasis exist each with its own set of symptoms and complications. Though Plaque Psoriasis remains the most common type of the disease (characterized by dry, red skin lesions covered with silvery-white scales.
How is Psoriasis Diagnosed?
If you are experiencing possible symptoms of psoriasis, you should make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. Symptoms can be confused for other diseases and certain types of psoriasis can cause permanent damage or even be fatal. Don’t hold off on getting diagnosed!
Your doctor will start with a physical exam and medical history review. A diagnosis can often be made from these evaluations, but can also be based on individual risk factors, potential triggers, and experience. Lab tests can rule out other similar diseases and disorders.
Common Triggers of Flareups
Flareup triggers can include a wide range of possibilities, like stress, diet, unhealthy lifestyle habits, medications, and weather conditions.
While not a direct cause, obesity is associated with psoriasis. Though it’s not clear if obesity causes psoriasis or vice versa. Losing weight in a healthy way can help manage flareups and avoid psoriasis-related complications, like high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and other autoimmune disorders.
- Emotional Stress
- Skin Injuries (including excessive sun exposure)
- Extreme weather – both cold, dry weather & hot, humid conditions
- Reactions to certain medications
- Infections like strep or staphylococcal
- Pregnancy, typically in the third trimester
Types of Psoriasis
There are many different types and subcategories of psoriasis and it’s possible to have more than one type.
No type of psoriasis is contagious.
Plaque Psoriasis makes up almost 80% of cases.
30% of patients with psoriasis will develop Psoriatic Arthritis.
Guttate psoriasis affects 10% of patients with psoriasis.
Official Types of Psoriasis
- Psoriatic Arthritis
More common in patients ages 30–50, Psoriatic Arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects patients with psoriasis. Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis typically occur after symptoms of psoriasis begin, but not always. There is no cure and treatment focuses on the symptoms and preventing damages caused by the condition. If left untreated, Psoriatic Arthritis could prove disabling.
Lower back pain? Your Psoriatic Arthritis might be to blame. This condition can lead to the development of spondylitis, the inflammation of joints between the spinal vertebrae.
Medications That Trigger Flareups or Worsen Symptoms
Certain medications can trigger or worsen symptoms of psoriasis and not everyone will react the same way. A drug could trigger the first episode in someone with no history of the condition and continue until the drug is stopped (drug-induced). A medication could worsen existing symptoms and even continue after the drug is stopped (drug-aggravated). Certain drugs could also induce secondary symptoms like Psoriatic Arthritis, nail arthritis, or a non-psoriatic autoimmune disease.
Common Trigger Medications:
- ACE Inhibitors
- Biologic Drugs
- Cancer Immunotherapy Drugs
Less Common Trigger Medications:
- Tetracycline Antibiotics
Tips for Managing Symptoms & Flareups
- Moisturize frequently, especially after showers
- Avoid hot showers
- Avoid scrubbing
- Clean broken skin with soap and warm water, antibacterial ointment, and OTC medical glue
- Eat healthy
- Lose weight (in a healthy way) – talk to your doctor first
- Reduce your stress
- Treat symptoms quickly
Ear Wax Blockage & Hear Loss From Psoriasis
The shedding flakes of plaque scales can cause a complete or partial blockage if it infiltrates the auditory canal. With Psoriatic Arthritis, the organs of the middle ear can become inflamed and impaired. According to a studies, 60% of patients with psoriatic arthritis experienced some level of hearing loss.
Do not use cotton swabs to try to remove the blockage! This could push the buildup deeper and possibly rupture the eardrum.
Treatment for Ear Psoriasis
- Steroid ear drops (prescription)
- OTC hydrocortisone or calcipotriene ointments
- Antifungal dandruff shampoos
- Commercial earwax softeners
- Drops of warm olive oil to loosen ear wax
- Oral antibiotics if a bacterial infection develops
To avoid worsening your symptoms on or in the ear, it’s important to avoid picking. You should make an appointment with your doctor/nurse practitioner, keep your ears clean and dry, and continue any treatments as directed.
For Possible Symptoms of Psoriasis, Make a Doctor’s Appointment ASAP.
If you think you might have psoriasis, don’t wait to take action and let your symptoms go untreated. Schedule an appointment ASAP!
Psoriasis and diseases often mistaken for psoriasis can be life-threatening or at least cause permanent damage. Untreated conditions can also lead to other diseases with more serious complications.
Once you’ve been diagnosed, follow your doctor’s recommendations and schedule regular appointments to treat symptoms, prevent flareups and complications, and get early diagnoses of other diseases often linked with psoriasis.