The skin disease psoriasis affects more than 7.5 million Americans. The most common variety is plaque psoriasis, in which patches of skin become inflamed, with silver-white scales covering the lesions. Beyond the physical discomfort, more than half of people with psoriasis report the condition being a significant problem in their day-to-day lives, particularly women and younger patients. Patients report anxiety and low self-esteem due to embarrassment from psoriasis.
There’s a sliver lining to the silver scales. Psoriasis patients are resistant to viral infection. Proteins in the skin of people with psoriasis have an effect on viruses that lessens their ability to grow and replicate. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks healthy skin tissue, and so the skin of patients has high levels of an immune messenger called interleukin-29, which fights viruses.
Unfortunately, the viral resistance doesn’t translate into resistance to non-viral illnesses. In fact, people with psoriasis are especially prone to diseases of the lungs, heart, kidneys, liver and pancreas, including chronic pulmonary disease, type 2 diabetes, mild liver disease, and peptic ulcers. In addition, these and other conditions are more severe in psoriasis patients. That means people with psoriasis need to be particularly vigilant about these conditions, and take what steps they can to lower controllable risk. In addition, people with psoriasis are more prone to developing other autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and lupus.
Treatments for psoriasis is with anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, and topical medication for the symptoms. Synthetic vitamin D and acne medication called retinoids are also administered topically. Ultraviolet light, natural or artificial, can also help alleviate psoriasis. Some natural remedies may also be helpful. Aloe vera’s soothing properties alleviate the discomfort of psoriasis lesions, and there is some evidence omega-3 fatty acids, taken orally, can reduce inflammation. Taking a bath is a good way to soothe the skin, at least 15 minutes with therapeutic salts or oatmeal. Use moisturizer immediately after drying from the bath and whenever your skin seems dry—possibly several times a day in cold weather. If your treatment interacts with alcohol, keep that in mind, and remember it can be drying.