Skin Conditions

An interview with Dr Rob Rosen
Dermatologist, Sydney

Psoriasis

A photograph of someone with Psoriasis

What is psoriasis?

Pronounced “sore-eye-a-sis”, this is a common skin condition affecting an estimated 400,000 Australians. You are more likely to develop psoriasis if another member of the family has it. Psoriasis can appear at any time in your life and on any part of your body. Psoriasis is not contagious. Psoriasis results in a very rapid turn over of skin cells causing scaling. It may be triggered by infections such as a strep throat infection, stress, medications, injury to the skin and severe sunburn. Stress and anxiety often bring about a flare-up of the disease.

What does psoriasis look like?

Salmon pink patches covered by silvery-white scales (flaky skin). The patches often appear on elbows, knees, scalp, or sometimes, smaller spots all over the body (“guttate psoriasis”). Psoriasis can be mild to severe and there are various types. Most people only have a small amount of their bodies affected but some people have it more extensively. Rarely, extensive psoriasis can make some people very ill and they may need to go to hospital (pustular or erythrodermic psoriasis). Some people may develop arthritis in their joints.

How does psoriasis affect the skin?

If you have psoriasis then the skin cells regenerate far more quickly than normal skin, so the skin cells don’t stick together or function as well. They fall off resulting in flaky skin. The skin is inflamed by release of chemicals and this results in the pink colour. The psoriasis rash can come and go but the tendency for the condition is life long.

Can psoriasis be cured?

Unfortunately there is as yet no cure, however there are various treatments that are helpful (eg topical preparations, ultraviolet light, tablets and injections). Psoriasis can have a major impact on your life, and some people may be so embarrassed that they miss out on many enjoyable things that life has to offer.

What can we do to look after our skin?

The pink flaky patches can become itchy, crack and bleed. Psoriasis in most people is not very itchy or painful unless you have it on your feet or hands. Use a gentle non-soap cleanser for washing, and a moisturiser to prevent the skin from drying out.

What is a suitable moisturiser for psoriasis sufferers?

Moisturisers should hydrate the skin by preventing excessive loss of water through the epidermis (the top layer of the skin), which occurs with psoriasis. A moisturiser should also help smooth and soften skin. Avoid those that contain perfumes or fragrances, alcohol, lanolin, and are greasy and oily. Importantly, a moisturiser should feel pleasant to use.

What about Cetaphil®?

In general, Cetaphil® Gentle Skin Cleanser is a good soap substitute for people with psoriasis. It is non-drying, with less irritation than many other cleansers. It does so without foaming and lathering. Cetaphil® Gentle Skin Cleanser can also be used with or without water. Cetaphil® Moisturising Lotion and Cream are ideal for those with particularly dry patches that need more moisturisation. The Cetaphil® Gentle Cleansing Bar is also available for those who prefer a bar.

When should I see my GP or a dermatologist?

If you are unsure whether you have psoriasis, or if you are experiencing persistent problems.

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