Some say that psoriasis is the oldest known
skin disease. While researchers are unsure if that is the case, one thing
that is for certain is that people have suffered from psoriasis for a very long
time. Many ancient texts, including the Bible, mention people afflicted with diseases
and symptoms very much like
psoriasis. The Bible used the term
tsaraat—an all-encompassing word for skin disease—in numerous
passages. Ancient Egyptians wrote about a salve made with various herbs that would
be spread on the skin, after which the afflicted person would be instructed to sit
in the sun to bring relief to symptoms that seem to point to psoriasis.
Unfortunately, little was known about the origin of the disease for hundreds of
years, and many psoriasis sufferers were thought at the time to have leprosy. Because
so little was known about contraction and treatment, psoriasis patients were often
separated from the general population for fear of their contaminating others. It
wasn't until the early 1800's that psoriasis was determined to be a condition separate
from leprosy. Soon after, the name psoriasis was given to the condition,
stemming from the Greek word meaning "to itch."
After researchers began to study psoriasis as its own entity, they soon discovered
that within the disease, there are multiple subsets.
- Plaque, or the most
common type of psoriasis, is characterized by large patches of scaly, itchy thickened
skin, or plaques, often covering large portions of the body. See image above.
- Affected by friction and sweat, flexural psoriasis most often presents
itself as skin that is smooth but inflamed in the folds of skin under the arms,
breasts, or around the genitals.
- The appearance of numerous, small, pear-shaped spots over the entire body following
a streptococcal throat infection may be caused by
- Postular (or
pustular) psoriasis can either be concentrated in one area, such as the
hands or feet, or spread over the body. The patches where it occurs are covered
with small, pus-filled bumps that are often tender and painful.
- Thickening beneath either the toenails or fingernails, accompanied with change in
the nails' appearance, such as lines or pitting of the nail, may be caused by
- Some who have psoriasis may also suffer from psoriatic arthritis,
a condition that causes inflammation in the joints, most often those of the fingers
and toes, but also afflicting other joints in the body or even the spine.
- Erythrodermic psoriasis
is extremely dangerous, as most of the skin of persons with this condition is covered
with painful itchy plaques, and the body is unable to regulate temperature and may
be unable to protect itself from disease. This sometimes fatal form of psoriasis
may be caused by volatile plaque psoriasis, especially if systemic treatment has
been suddenly interrupted.
With so many different types of psoriasis and centuries of doctors studying them,
there are a number of treatments available. Most advancements in psoriasis treatment
have been made in the past century. Unfortunately, none of them are able to completely
cure the disease, and some may cause significant side effects.
Pre 20th-century psoriasis treatment
As previously mentioned, herbal salves accompanied by sun exposure were methods
used by ancient cultures to bring relief to skin disease. Another topical treatment
commonly used for treatment is coal tar. Coal tar is applied to the skin in order
to increase sun sensitivity. Not only is this method often very messy, but the tar
can discolor the skin, and may cause inflammation of areas of skin not afflicted
by psoriasis. Additionally, some studies have cited coal tar as a carcinogen.
20th-century psoriasis treatments
The 20th century saw a flurry of developments in psoriasis treatment. As years progressed
the list of potential therapies grew, but for some, so did the list of harmful side
In the 1920's, much of psoriasis treatment centered around sunlight exposure, particularly
the effects of UVB rays on the disease. Most often the patient applied topical treatment
or salve and was exposed to sunlight, much like in ancient times. Eventually a UVB
lamp was developed to mimic the sun's rays and to provide a consistent wavelength.
Topical and oral steroids became a popular method of treatment during the 1950's,
but also presenting a host of problems. These synthetic hormone-mimics are able
to limit growth and inflammation of skin cells when applied to the skin. They work
quickly, but need to be used often in order to retain results. Over time steroids
can cause a number of problems, including cutaneous atrophy, and occasionally stretch
marks develop which leave permanent scars.
Doctors in the 1960's began using hydroxyurea to treat psoriasis patients. This
substance, also used in cancer treatment, is believed to inhibit the DNA replication
within skin cells. Hydroxyurea may cause birth defects and can also cause a drop
in white blood cells and platelets.
In the 1970's, interest in UV treatment for psoriasis was renewed. This time, however,
patients were asked to use a method known as PUVA, or photochemotherapy. Psoriasis
sufferers were given a medicine that made their skin more susceptible to light before
being exposed to irradiation by UVA. This treatment not only causes premature aging
of the skin, but also amplifies the risk of skin cancer.
Methotrexate, another cancer treatment, came onto the scene for psoriasis treatment
in the 1990's. Methotrexate slows the growth of skin cells, but also slows the growth
of other cells, such as bone marrow and sperm cells. Another potential side effect
of this treatment is the potential for liver damage.
21st-century psoriasis treatments
In most recent years, a number of new treatments have become available for psoriasis
patients. Some are based on older methods of treatment, but some, like biological
therapies, are new to the field of medicine altogether.
Lasers have become a new way for psoriasis sufferers to deal with flare-ups. Much
in the same way that lasers are used to alleviate the signs of aging or redness,
areas of skin affected by psoriasis lesions are targeted by a beam of intense UV
light. This method of treatment is suggested only to those with mild cases, and
occasionally scarring may occur.
A treatment which is new for psoriasis as well as in the medical community is the
administration of biological therapies. Biological therapies are injected into patients
suffering from more advanced psoriasis symptoms. Biologicals target and block specific
immune cells within the body. Several biological treatments are currently available,
and more are in development. Currently they appear to be a relatively safe treatment
method, yet studies are still being conducted to determine potential side effects.
Cyclosporin, tioguanine, and retinoid drugs are just a few of the systemic treatments
offered to treat severe psoriasis cases. Cyclosporin works by suppressing the immune
system, while tioguanine, which is often used to treat leukemia, prevents cell growth
and division. Retinoids are very potent synthetic forms of vitamin A. Due to the
high toxicity and side effects of these medications, patients must be monitored
frequently for distress in the liver and kidneys, and women using this method of
treatment are discouraged from becoming pregnant during treatment due to high risk
of birth defects.
The DermaHarmony approach to psoriasis treatment
Even with multiple options, there is currently no cure for psoriasis. Many of the
aforementioned treatments are available only to those with very acute outbreaks,
and some may cause harsh side effects. Although not directly caused by allergies,
psoriasis can be aggravated by an individual's exposure to allergens as well as
increased inflammation in the body. At DermaHarmony
we believe that relief may be possible by reducing stress, implementing drastic
changes in diet, practicing regular detoxification, and ensuring proper supplementation.
Consider for a moment the stages of psoriasis and treatment as rungs on a ladder.
The first rung represents the sufferer with very light symptoms, perhaps even in
remission. As the rungs increase, so does the severity of both the condition and
treatment. Some researchers such as Dr. John Pagano, a chiropractic
doctor and author of Healing Psoriasis—the Natural Approach, believes
that internal toxicity is a major factor in the cause of psoriasis outbreaks. Unfortunately,
some of the very aggressive forms of treatment can damage the liver and kidneys,
the very organs responsible for controlling toxicity in our bodies. If steps can
be taken for psoriasis sufferers to keep the condition under control and stay on
the "first rung" of the ladder, they may be able to enjoy relief for longer
periods of time without the perils of harsher treatments. You may be surprised to
learn that lifestyle changes can have the same effectiveness as systemic treatments,
but without the high cost and toxic long-term implications.
DermaHarmony believes in healing the body from the inside out. This means cleansing
and detoxifying the system to help prime the liver and ready the intestines for
maximum supplement absorption. We also suggest a
healing diet for psoriasis and taking pharmaceutical-grade supplement packages
to help support your body in the healing process. You may also want to consider
supplementing with doses of additional vitamin D, which may increase your ability
to relieve psoriasis symptoms.
Through optimal supplementation, detoxification, and increased awareness of factors
like diet and stress, we are hopeful that you can find additional relief from the
pain and distress so often associated with psoriasis. Learn more about how DermaHarmony
can help psoriasis through detoxification.
How We Help
Visit DermaHarmony to learn more about our alternative, science-based approach to psoriasis and other common skin conditions. At DermaHarmony our goals are to educate chronic skin care sufferers about the latest alternative research in dermatology, encourage a holistic approach to healthy skin and wellness, and to support our readers in every way we can. Our programs promote healthy skin from the inside out—with pharmaceutical-grade nutritional supplements, topical treatments, expert dietary guidance, and a whole-person approach to health and wellness. Learn more about our programs or call us toll-free at 1-800-827-3730. Our support desk is open 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. ET, Monday–Friday.
Our Skin Health Assessment is designed to help you gain better understanding of your symptoms, and to facilitate our ability to make effective, individualized dietary and lifestyle recommendations for you. It is simple, free, and takes just five minutes to complete. Start on your way to healthier skin and better health today.
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Although there is currently no proven cure for psoriasis, recent research indicates that there are numerous health benefits to vitamin D. Supplementation with D-3 provides relief from many inflammatory ailments and medical conditions. We believe these include psoriasis, dermatitis, dandruff, eczema, rosacea, and severe acne.
Inverse psoriasis is found in skin folds such as the armpits, groin, under the breasts, around genitals and the buttocks. Inverse psoriasis is more common in people who are overweight and people with deep skin folds where friction and sweating occur.
Plaque psoriasis is the most typical form of this skin condition—4 out of 5 people with psoriasis have plaque psoriasis. The technical or scientific name for plaque psoriasis is psoriasis vulgaris (vulgaris means "common").
In pustular (PUHS-choo-ler) psoriasis, blisters of noninfectious pus appear on the skin. Attacks of pustular psoriasis may be triggered by medications, infections, stress, or exposure to certain chemicals.
Scalp psoriasis is one of the most common types of psoriasis—occurring in just over half of all people who suffer from psoriasis. Scalp psoriasis can range from mild, with slight fine scaling, to severe, with thick red plaques affecting the entire scalp.
Principal Author: K. Kastelein—Editor in Chief
Date of Publication: 07/31/2006