Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin condition that affects millions worldwide. Individuals with this skin disorder will experience a sped-up skin production process, causing scaling on the skin’s surface. Inflammation and redness around the scales are also common.
These scales usually develop on the individual’s joints, such as the elbow or knee. However, they can also form anywhere on the body, including the face, neck, hands, and feet. Typical psoriatic scales develop in thick, red patches and are whitish-silver. But on darker skin tones, the scales may appear purplish, dark brown with grey scales. Occasionally, these patches may crack and bleed.
In the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), psoriasis is viewed as an internal imbalance characterised by heat and dampness, which disrupts the body’s natural harmony and causes the rapid proliferation of skin cells and the characteristic red, scaly plaques that are the hallmark of psoriasis.
What causes psoriasis?
The exact cause of psoriasis is not entirely understood. However, thanks to decades of research, healthcare professionals believe this skin condition arises from genetics, the immune system, and environmental factors.
Some individuals may inherit genes that make them predisposed to developing psoriasis. If you have an immediate family member with this skin condition, you are more susceptible to psoriasis.
2. Immune system
Generally, white blood cells (T cells), which are part of the immune system, are designed to attack and eradicate invading bacteria, serving as a defence against infections. However, in the case of psoriasis, the white blood cells mistakenly attack your skin cells, causing the skin cell production process to go into overdrive.
The sped-up skin cell production causes new skin cells to develop too rapidly. As a result, they are pushed to the skin’s surface, where they pile up, resulting in the plaques commonly associated with psoriasis. This mistaken attack is also responsible for causing red, inflamed patches of skin to develop.
3. Environmental factors
External factors, such as diet, emotional stress, exposure to specific triggers, and lifestyle choices, can exacerbate the symptoms of psoriasis.
Signs and symptoms of psoriasis
The most common symptoms of psoriasis include:
- Raised, inflamed patches of skin that appear red on light skin and brown or purple on dark skin;
- whitish-silver scales or plaques on the red patches or grey scales on purple and brown patches;
- Dry skin that may crack and bleed;
- itching and burning sensations around the inflamed patches of skin;
- Painful, swollen joints;
- Soreness around the patches of skin;
- Thick, pitted nails.
Please note that not every person will experience all these symptoms. In fact, psoriasis symptoms can differ between individuals depending on the type of psoriasis they have. Some individuals may experience entirely different symptoms if they develop a less common type of psoriasis.
TCM Psoriasis Treatment Singapore
In TCM philosophy, the skin is considered a reflection of the body’s internal health. The development of psoriasis signifies an underlying imbalance within the body. Based on TCM diagnosis, there are various patterns (blood stasis, damp heat, dryness in the blood and yin deficiency, heat in the blood, blood toxin, wind etc.) responsible for psoriasis. As such, they require different combinations of herbal formulas to address the underlying issue.
TCM physicians will seek to identify the pattern (blood-heat, wind-heat, damp-heat, heat-toxins etc.) and prescribe a custom remedy or topical medication to target individual balances. The aim is to address the root cause, thus restoring the body’s harmony and ensuring long-lasting relief.
FAQs about psoriasis
1. Is there a permanent cure for psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured completely through conventional immunosuppressants. Fortunately, various TCM treatments are available to help manage symptoms and reduce your risk of complications. You can also take medications, identify your triggers, and make lifestyle changes to help you manage your symptoms and live better with psoriasis.
2. Is psoriasis contagious?
Rest assured that psoriasis is not contagious. Coming into contact with a psoriatic lesion will not cause you to develop the skin condition, nor can you pass it from one person to another.
3. What are the triggers for psoriasis?
Many who are predisposed to psoriasis can be free of symptoms for years before the skin condition is triggered by an external factor. These triggers may not be the same for everyone and can change over time. Common psoriasis triggers include:
- Cold, dry weather conditions
- Heavy alcohol consumption;
- Infections, such as skin infections or strep throat;
- Injury to the skin, like a bug bite, a cut or scrape, or a severe sunburn;
- Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke;
- Specific medications, including antimalarial drugs, high blood pressure medication, and lithium;
4. How do I stop psoriasis from spreading?
While topical treatments can help improve the symptoms of psoriasis, large-scale improvement and control over the skin condition require systemic medications. Outside of these treatments, it can be challenging to prevent psoriasis or keep it from spreading.
Nevertheless, some lifestyle changes can help you control psoriasis and reduce inflammation. They include:
- Avoiding alcohol;
- Diet changes;
- Maintaining a healthy weight;
- Quitting smoking;
- Reducing stress.