Although psoriasis has been found in Egyptian mummies, the disease baffled the early physicians. Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.) ignored superstitions and treated skin disorders with tar and arsenic, while Galen (133-200 A.D.) named the disease Psoriasis vulgaris and added a broth containing boiled viper to the mix.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease consisting of red patches covered with silvery white build-up of dead skin cells. It can appear on any part of the body—even the eyelids—and it is often associated with diabetes, heart disease, and depression, according to the National Psoriasis Association, Portland, Oregon.
Like arthritis, lupus, etc., an autoimmune disease is the abnormal functioning of the immune system in which the body produces antibodies against its own tissues.
There are 5 types of psoriasis: 1) Plaque psoriasis (Psoriasis vulgaris), the most common type; 2) Guttate, which often affects children; 3) Inverse, which appears as red blotches in body folds; 4) Pustular, which is pus-containing white blood cells; and 5) Erythrodermic, which causes severe itching and pain.
An estimated 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, reported the Association. Scientists believe that about 10% of the population inherits 1 or more genes that create a predisposition to the disease; however, only about 2 to 3% actually develop it.
The Association added that these conditions could trigger the disease:
- Stress can initiate a flare-up or aggravate existing disease.
- Vaccinations, sunburn, or injury to the skin can trigger a response.
- Certain medications can cause a flare-up:
a. Lithium, which is used to treat psychiatric disorders
b. Antamalarial drugs, such as PlaqLentil
c. Inderal, which is frequently prescribed, can aggravate the disease in about 30% of the patients.
d. Quinidine, the heart medication, is known to cause problems.
e. Indomethacin, an anti-inflammatory drug for arthritis, can often worsen symptoms.
“Anything that can affect the immune system can affect psoriasis,” the Association continued. “As an example, a flare-up can occur after an earache, tonsillitis, or a respiratory infection. If psoriasis flares, ask your doctor for a strep throat test.
WebMed, the online medical column, did a literature search, and found the following to be helpful for some psoriasis patients: Vitamin D, aloe vera, bovine cartilage, fish oil, zinc, DHA, EPA, and the herb Oregon grape.
Vitamin D analogs are known to exert potent effects on the skin and other tissues, and to regulate apoptosis (cell death) and immunomodulatory effects, according to Lea Tremezaygues, M.D., of Saarland University Hospital, Homburg/Saar, Germany.
“During the past decade, it has been convincingly shown that vitamin D compounds are effective and safe in the topical treatment of psoriasis, and now represent a standard therapy,” she said.
While a small amount of psoriasis cases are hereditary, psoriasis can be avoidable. Try to relieve stress, wear sunscreen, and if possible avoid certain medications. Unfortunately psoriasis is currently not curable, but it can be controlled with medication and other therapies. Research continues to be promising so be sure to visit the National Psoriasis Foundation page for up-to-date medical information!