Advanced Treatment Options for Psoriasis in the San Diego Area
Dr. Melanie Palm is a nationally recognized dermatologist and an expert in the treatment of cosmetic and medical skin conditions. Dr. Palm is a noted leader in her field and offers many effective options for the treatment of psoriasis. Her offices are located in Solana Beach, CA just north of San Diego.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the immune system that primarily affects the skin. It speeds up the life cycle of skin cells in the affected areas causing them to build up rapidly on the skin’s surface. The most common type of psoriasis, known as psoriasis vulgaris or plaque psoriasis, is characterized by raised patches of reddened skin often with thick overlying silvery scales (plaques). The affected skin is itchy and irritated and often painful.
Psoriasis can affect almost any part of the body depending on the variant. Plaque psoriasis, for example, most commonly appears on the scalp, knees, elbows, and body. Other types of psoriasis can appear on the hands and feet, in skin folds, and sometimes on fingernails and toenails. Psoriasis nails can appear yellow, white, streaked, crumbly or have pits or depressions along the length of the nail. Psoriatic nail disease is sometimes confused with fungal nails as their appearance can be similar.
It is estimated that over 2% of people in the United States have some form of psoriasis. Of those affected, as many as 30% will develop a co-occurring disease called psoriatic arthritis. Like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis affects the joints. Treatment of psoriatic arthritis is necessary to avoid permanent joint damage.
What Causes Psoriasis?
The short answer is that it isn’t completely known what causes psoriasis. It is believed to be related to an immune system malfunction in relation to specific cell types in the body. One of these cells is a type of white blood cell called a T lymphocyte or T cell. Normally, T cells travel throughout the body and fight off harmful substances like bacteria and viruses. For patients with psoriasis, however, those same T cells also mistakenly target healthy skin cells as well.
The exact cause of this cellular malfunction isn’t clear, but researchers have discovered that genetics can play a role in the development of psoriasis. Other factors, such as environmental or medical conditions, can also trigger psoriasis outbreaks including:
- Certain types of infections – including streptococcal and some types of skin infections
- Trauma to the skin (e.g. cuts, scrapes, and severe sunburn)
- Cold weather
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Certain medications – including lithium, some high blood pressure medications, antimalarial medications, and others
It is important to note that psoriasis is not contagious.
A special subtype of psoriasis, referred to as guttate psoriasis, occurs suddenly as dozens to hundreds of round red small patches on the trunk and sometimes the extremities. It often occurs in younger patients. It is important that these patients are tested for Strep infection with a strep test or ASO titer. If patients test positive for strep, treating with appropriate antibiotics may help the guttate psoriasis resolve.
Can Psoriasis be Cured? What are the Treatment Options?
For now, there is no cure for psoriasis. Symptoms may diminish or even disappear completely for periods of time, but it cannot be permanently cured. Thankfully, there are several effective treatment options available for psoriasis sufferers depending on the location and severity of the condition.
For mild to moderate cases of psoriasis topical treatments such as corticosteroids, vitamin D analogues, retinoids, calcineurin inhibitors, and coal tar are often effective. More severe cases of psoriasis, however, require more aggressive forms of treatment such as light therapy, oral medication, and injectable biologic therapies.
If you suffer from psoriasis and are in or near the San Diego area, Dr. Melanie Palm can help. Call 858.792.SKIN (7546) to schedule your appointment and discuss your treatment options.