HEALTH INFO: Psoriasis

Voluntary Action Calderdale and Public Health are producing a series of information bulletins aimed at raising awareness of various medical conditions. Their latest is focusing on the skin condition Psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a long term skin condition characterised by patches of abnormal skin. These patches are red and have white flaky scales of dry skin; the areas can be very itchy or sore. Finger and toe nails can also be affected. Psoriasis can present in different ways and affect different areas of the skin, the most common type of the condition, Plaque psoriasis, affects 90% of sufferers, causes patches to appear on the back of the forearms, shins, back, abdomen and in scalp.

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that develops in 10 – 20% of psoriasis suffers. It typically causes affected joints to become inflamed (swollen), stiff and painful. It usually develops within 10 years of psoriasis being diagnosed, although some people may experience problems with their joints before they notice any symptoms affecting their skin.

Psoriasis (and psoriatic arthritis) is related to the immune system, although the process is not fully understood. It is thought that the immune system attacks healthy skin and as result the skin rapidly increases production of cells in the affected area, it is the rapid build up of both new and damaged skin cells that cause the patches. Like psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis is thought to occur as a result of the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy tissue, but it’s not clear why some people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis and others don’t. There is a tendency for the conditions to run in families; again the causes of this are not clear.

Triggers

There are identifiable triggers for psoriasis (both first appearance and recurrence). These include:

  • Injury to the skin, such as a cut, scrape, insect bite or sunburn
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes, particularly in women
  • Certain medicines such as lithium, some anti-malarial medicines, anti-inflammatory medicines including ibuprofen, ACE inhibitors (used to treat high blood pressure) and beta blockers
  • Throat infections in some people, usually children and young adults
  • Other immune disorders, such as HIV, which cause psoriasis to flare up or to appear for the first time

Treatment

Before starting a course of medical treatment, a confirmed diagnosis must be made to rule out other skin conditions. This will normally be done by taking a biopsy and referral to a dermatologist.

Treatments will vary depending upon the severity of the condition.

  • Vitamin D
  • Topical corticosteroids (ointments)
  • Phototherapy (Light treatment)
  • In more severe cases the suffers may be recommended to undergo treatment with stronger drugs that have a direct effect on the immune system or the growth pattern of cells

Living with Psoriasis and sources of help

It is important that people affected by psoriasis are supported to live with the condition and to stay healthy. Self care is an important aspect of this. Support can be found via the Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance, http://www.papaa.org/self-help

It is also important to keep up any medical treatments. This can be costly; help is available for those on certain benefits, low income and those who need more than three prescriptions a month. Information can be found at http://www.nhs.uk/nhsengland/healthcosts/pages/prescriptioncosts.aspx

Healthy Living

Remember that regular reviews of general health and the condition with a GP and specialists are part of the treatment.

People with psoriasis have a slightly higher risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease than the general population. Regular exercise and a healthy diet and lifestyle are recommended for everyone, not just people with psoriasis, because they can help to prevent many health problems.

The Better Living Team offers specially designed physical activity and weight loss sessions for all ages. These are available at a number of venues across Calderdale, and are free of charge for people who meet the referral criteria. Children, young people and adults of all ages are catered for including pregnant women. Qualified and experienced instructors offer great support for twelve weeks to help achieve goals, after which members benefit from cheaper priced Council facilities for a further 9 months. For more information ring 01422 230230.

Further information on health and fitness and be found at: http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/fitness/Pages/Fitnesshome.aspx

and for healthy eating see http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/healthy-eating/Pages/Healthyeating.aspx

For help on losing weight see http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/loseweight/Pages/Loseweighthome.aspx

Stopping smoking

The Calderdale team of Yorkshire Smokefree can offer expert advice, support and methods to help anyone looking to quit. They offer a wide variety of services including:

  • Practical advice from our specialist advisors
  • Access to medication to help you stop smoking
  • Free group sessions in Calderdale

To find out more about Yorkshire Smokefree, call 0800 612 0011(FREE from landlines) or 0330 660 1166 (FREE from most mobiles) or visit http://yorkshiresmokefree.nhs.uk/

There is a wide range of support in the Calderdale area for people who would like support and advice about alcohol. A good place to start is Calderdale Recovery Steps http://calderdaleinrecovery.com/services/recoverysteps/

Emotional Support

The condition can also lead to emotional problems, this may lead to depression. The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance has information on how to deal with these issues. It is also important to talk to others, including medical support teams about how you are feeling and dealing with the emotional aspect of this condition. The Psoriasis Association also has online help and forums that may be of help https://www.psoriasis-association.org.uk/forums/

The organisations mentioned above are also able to provide information and on-line support to help sufferers deal with related conditions such as psoriatic arthritis.

As psoriasis is a long term condition that impacts on daily living, the equality act sees this as a disability. Support and advice on living with disabilities in Calderdale can be gained from Disability Support Calderdale, http://www.disabilitysupportcalderdale.org/

If a sufferer is finding it difficult to deal with the emotional aspects of the condition a local counselling service may be able to help:

Calderdale lower Valley – Turning Point; http://www.turningpoint-brighouse.org.uk/
Calderdale Upper Valley – Noah’s Ark; http://www.noahsarkcentre.org.uk/

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