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Psoriasis is more than just a skin condition, as it can affect people physically and psychologically. It is important to remember that it can be managed, even though the cure isn’t yet known. The good news is, that with the right treatment and advice, many people live well with psoriasis.

Psoriasis is an immune condition caused by the accumulation of skin cells builds up to form raised ‘plaques’ on the skin, which can also be flaky, scaly, red on white skin, darker patches on darker skin tones, and itchy. What is happening is that the skin’s replacement process speeds up, taking just a few days to replace skin cells which would usually take 21-28 days. Recent research has found that the psoriasis-causing changes in the skin begin in the immune system when certain immune cells (T cells) are triggered and become overactive. The T cells act as if they were fighting an infection or healing a wound, which leads to them producing inflammatory chemicals, again leading to the rapid growth of skin cells causing psoriatic plaques to form. You may therefore hear psoriasis being described as an “auto-immune disease” or “immune-mediated condition”. It is not yet clear what initially triggers the immune system to act in this way.  Note that it cannot be passed from one person to another, nor can it be ‘spread’ across the body by touching an area of psoriatic skin to an area of non-psoriatic skin.

Psoriasis can occur on any area of the body, including the scalp, hands, feet and genitals. It affects males and females equally. The current thinking is that psoriasis affects between 2% and 3% of the UK population- up to 1.8 million people - although this is an estimate. It can occur at any age, although there seem to be two ‘peaks’; from the late teens to early thirties, and between the ages of around 50 and 60.

Some people with psoriasis may also get psoriatic arthritis - a type of arthritis associated with the skin condition. However, just having psoriasis doesn't mean you will get psoriatic arthritis, and not everybody who goes on to develop psoriatic arthritis necessarily has psoriasis of the skin, either.

 

In some cases, people affected will have a family history of the condition, but others may not. A flare-up of psoriasis can be triggered by number of factors, such as stress or anxiety, certain foods, injury to skin, hormonal changes, or certain infections or medications.

 

Psoriasis is unique to each individual, and a treatment that works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Because of this, treating psoriasis can be a process of trial and error, and it can be frustrating.

Most people with psoriasis start their treatment under the guidance of a General Practitioner (GP). Psoriasis treatment usually starts with topical (applied to the skin) treatments, which can come in different formulations (creams, ointments, gels, etc.) and have different active ingredients. It is of immense importance to regularly moisturize the affected skin with natural creams, balms and oils- especially olive oil being highly beneficial.

 

 Scientists now know that olive oil contains naturally occurring substances called phenolic compounds, which have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

One of the phenolic compounds in olive oil (called oleocanthal) works in a similar way to the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen, by slowing down the release of inflammatory hormones called prostaglandins. Because there is an overproduction of inflammatory prostaglandins in psoriasis, olive oil may help by slowing down this process. The antioxidants in olive oil may also be beneficial, because people with psoriasis tend to have insufficient number of antioxidants to protect cells from damage. In a study looking at the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and psoriasis severity using a dietary questionnaire, researchers found higher intakes of olive oil were linked with lower psoriasis severity and fewer markers of inflammation. (citizenresearch.com/i/ingredient/olive-oil/)

 

If it comes to supplementation, Vitamin D has shown to be an effective treatment for a couple of reasons. One of the effects of vitamin D is changing the way cells grow. Since the symptoms of psoriasis on skin include an increase of the skin's cells, if you put something on the skin that slows growth, it may cause the plaques to become thinner and less scaly. That may be one way it works. The other way is we also know vitamin D affects how the immune system functions. Since psoriasis is an abnormality in the function of the immune system, it could be that vitamin D is shifting the balance in a good way.

 

Many people with psoriasis notice an improvement in their skin after they have been in the sunshine. The use of the sun’s rays has been used to treat psoriasis for over a century, however, of the many different ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun, only UVA and UVB are helpful to people with psoriasis. Ultraviolet light reduces inflammation in the skin, which is why it can be effective for psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions. There are two different types of ‘UV’ therapy that are used to treat psoriasis. Narrowband UVB (also known as ‘TL-01’, after the type of bulb used) uses the UVB part of the spectrum, and is often used to treat guttate or plaque psoriasis. The other type of ‘UV’ therapy is known as PUVA, and is a combination of the UVA part of the spectrum and a chemical called psoralen (this is where the ‘p’ in PUVA comes from). 

Remember - using a sunbed at a gym, salon or spa is not the same has having UV therapy in a hospital setting. Hospital-based UV treatment uses only the specific part of the spectrum that is useful to treat skin conditions. This is not the case on a sunbed, where a much broader spectrum is used. Many sunbeds use mostly, or entirely, UVA light, which is ineffective for treating psoriasis without the added psoralen. Therefore, using sunbeds means taking on the risks of UV exposure, without much of the benefit to psoriasis.

www.psoriasis-association.org.uk

  www.psoriasis.org

https://citizenresearch.com/i/ingredient/olive-oil/

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