What Causes Psoriasis?
Psoriasis can affect both the skin and joints. It is a dermatological autoimmune condition that manifests on the skin as the eruption of red, scaly patches. The problem usually occurs on the elbows, knees, scalp and trunk. These lesions or bumps can become thick and pus filled resulting in peeling and skin irritation. These (psoriatic plaques) are areas of excessive skin production and inflammation. When psoriasis affects the joints it is called psoriatic arthritis.
The exact cause of psoriasis is still unclear but the following are a few possibilities that scientists have come up with:
- Autoimmune condition: In psoriasis, a type of white blood cell, called a T-cell, are put into action by mistake and become so active that they can trigger other immune responses, which lead to inflammation and rapid turnover of skin cells. The skin cells rise quickly from their origin below the surface of the skin and pile up on the surface before they have a chance to mature. Usually this takes about a month in the average person, but in psoriasis, it may only take a few days.
- Family history: in one-third of cases researchers have found genes linked to psoriasis after studying a large number of families affected by the disease.
- Emotional stress – usually a causative factor with various skin problems
- Skin damage
- Cold weather or changes in climate
- Physical illness – from a Chinese medicine prospective this wears down a person’s vital life energy leaving them vulnerable
- Some medications including gold, lithium, beta blockers and those that treat high blood pressure and inflammation can trigger an outbreak or worsen psoriasis
Typical Western Medical Treatment for Psoriasis
Western medicine commonly treats psoriasis with topical medications and/or oral medications and injections that are directed towards the immune system. Over time, your skin can become resistant to treatment and may no longer work, especially when topical steroids are used. Also, many psoriasis sufferers say that they have either not yet found a treatment that really works or they are afraid of the adverse reactions they will have to the medications.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for Psoriasis
What is the best treatment for psoriasis? In most cases, the patient has tried every medication and ointment without success and is seeking an alternative. In the initial visit, the patient is asked many detailed questions and we talk with them about the course of treatment. Acupuncture is recommended several times per week initially. In all cases, patients are advised about their diet and nutritional supplements are recommended. Chinese herbal medicine is a very important part of a natural treatment for psoriasis. We use herbal formulas that inhibit inflammatory cytokines associated with psoriasis.
According to the Chinese medicine theory, psoriasis is due to heat and dryness in the blood giving rise to wind toxins which flow into the skin. This may also be mixed with dampness. Therefore, the treatment principles are to dispel wind and disinhibit dampness, clear the blood and moisten dryness.