You’ve probably heard of psoriasis—according to the National Skin Centre one of the top 10 skin diseases treated in Singapore. Think that you might be suffering from the condition, or that someone you know is? Dr Lim Chun Siong from DTAP Clinic tells us more about the symptoms to look out for, and the treatment options available in the market.
The symptoms of psoriasis vary from person to person. However, on the skin it commonly appears as flaky, thick patches that can itch or become sore.
On the scalp, it gives rise to itch, flaky dandruff and can sometimes result in thinning hair. And on the nails, it can result in the appearance of small pits, discolouration or abnormal growth of the nails, separation of the nails from their beds or even crumbling of the nails in severe cases.
This inflammatory skin disease can also cause joint pain, swelling, stiffness, or even joint deformity if not treated early. Dr Lim adds that sufferers have a higher chance of developing obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and fatty liver.
Unfortunately, psoriasis can’t be cured. But it can be managed.
Dr Lim says that anti-inflammatory creams containing coal tar, vitamin D or corticosteroids, as well as ultraviolet light therapy, can improve the skin rash and itch of psoriasis. More severe symptoms are often treated with oral medications that suppress the immune system to quell the autoimmune attacks and allow the body tissues a chance to recover.
Because oral medicines can have different side effects on different people, regular blood tests are recommended to monitor for potential toxic effects on internal organs.
Then there are also injectibles known as biologics, which are genetically engineered proteins that target specific parts of the immune system found to be active in psoriasis. They are the newest type of treatment and “rather effective” for moderate to severe psoriasis.
“They are able to treat almost all symptoms of psoriasis but are costly and can potentially increase one’s chance of getting a bacterial or viral infection or activate hidden diseases like tuberculosis. Typical treatments can vary from a few months to a year and beyond. Although biologics are effective, they are not a cure and relapses can still happen,” says Dr Lim.
Living with psoriasis
If you’re diagnosed with the skin condition, you can control your symptoms by avoiding triggers (such as infections, skin injury, weather, emotional stress, smoking, alcohol, and certain medicines), practising good skin care and adopting a healthy lifestyle (regular exercise, eating a healthy balanced diet, avoiding cigarettes and alcohol, can help improve symptoms). Regular use of moisturisers on your skin will help to reduce itch, irritation, and softens the plaques while daily baths can help remove scales.
It is also important that you learn how to manage stress.
“Stress can trigger psoriasis and psoriasis can in turn cause stress and even depression. Manage stress through relaxation techniques, meditation, and exercise, and do talk to your doctor if you suspect you have succumbed to depression,” says Dr Lim.
“Some of the symptoms of depression include lack of interest in things that you used to enjoy, inability to focus, loss of energy, inability to sleep, feeling that you cannot get out of bed.”