Psoriasis is a common inflammatory disease of the skin which affects 2-3% of New Zealanders.
Characteristic symptoms are thick, red skin, with flaky, silver-white patches. These patches can be small and may or may not be itchy and sore. More severe cases can cover large areas of the body and have a major impact on quality of life. The aim of treatment is to minimise symptoms and prevent infection of the skin.
Psoriasis is often a life-long condition. Anyone can get psoriasis, but it is more likely to occur in people aged between 15 and 35 years and those aged between 50 and 60 years. It is not contagious, i.e. it cannot be caught from or spread to another person.
There are several different types of psoriasis, each with its own distinctive appearance. Some people will develop stiff swollen joints in combination with their psoriasis – a condition known as psoriatic arthritis. The persistent visual, and sometimes disabling, nature of psoriasis can result in social, psychological, and economic consequences for people with the condition. Hence, it is important to seek effective treatment and support.
The cause of psoriasis is not fully understood but it is thought to occur when environmental factors (or triggers) interact with the body’s immune system in people who have a genetic predisposition to the condition.
Signs and symptoms
Psoriasis may appear anywhere on the body but will often affect the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back. For some people, psoriasis appears as a few spots of dandruff-like scaling that is more of a nuisance than anything else. In other people, it is a severe condition that is painful, disfiguring, and disabling. Signs and symptoms of psoriasis vary depending on the type of psoriasis. They typically include one or more of the following:
- Red raised patches of skin covered with loose silvery scales (plaques)
- Dry cracked skin (which may bleed)
- Itching, burning, and soreness
- Thick, pitted or ridged nails
- Swollen, painful, and stiff joints
- Eye problems – conjunctivitis, uveitis or blepharitis.
There is no cure for psoriasis but many treatments that offer significant symptom relief are available. A series, or sequence, of treatments is usually required as treatments that work well initially may lose their effectiveness over time. There are three main types of treatment for psoriasis:
1. Creams, ointments and shampoos
New treatment available
A new foam spray formulation of calcipotriol/betamethasone is now available in New Zealand for psoriasis management. If you feel this is something that may benefit you, contact us today to speak with your doctor.