What is psoriasis? Everything you need to know about the skin condition

Psoriasis is a skin condition which causes red, scaly patches to appear on your skin. It’s not infectious and it’s not clear why it happens, but it affects around 2% of people and it often runs in families.

What causes psoriasis?

Psoriasis is caused when the body produces too many skin cells, although it’s not clear why this happens. In some cases, certain triggers can cause a flare up. These triggers include stress, infections, drugs and medicine, smoking and hormonal changes. Injuries to the skin (such as scratching or sunburn) can also cause flare-ups.

Treatments for psoriasis

There isn’t a cure for psoriasis, but there are lots of treatments that can clear or reduce it. In mild cases, you might only need to use a moisturiser, which will soften the skin and reduce the scaling and the itch.

In other cases, vitamin D creams work well – they affect the rate that the cells divide. But these cause irritation in some people, and sometimes aren’t suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Coal tar preparations have been used for years to treat psoriasis, but it’s not clear why they work. Steroid creams and ointments can be used to reduce inflammation.

There are several other treatment options – and different treatments work for different people. Some sufferers of psoriasis now turn to natural treatments like grape root oil.

Psoriasis in children

The most common case of psoriasis in children is plaque psoriasis, which affects the elbows, knees and lower back.

The condition is rare in babies, especially if no one in the family has it. It could be difficult to recognise psoriasis when it may look like a normal nappy rash, but the skin condition will look red and shiny with little scaling, and you will be able to clearly tell where it ends and where the normal skin starts.

If your child suffers from the condition, it’s important to apply moisturisers and emollients to their skin so that the active treatment creams and ointments work more effectively.

During a psoriasis flare, cotton clothing, underwear and bedding may be more comfortable for your child. Another helpful tip is to keep a small pot of moisturiser in their school backpack in case they need to moisturise during the day if their skin gets itchy.

Your tips

Andrena says:
I’ve had scalp psoriasis for a couple of years now (get it a bit on my arms too sometimes) and the doc has just given me a shampoo called etrivex – it is much easier to use (doesn’t take long only about 15 mins) than others he has given me (like polytar and capasal shampoos) and it seems to be working well too. Worth a try – you can just ask your doctor for it I think.

Emily says:
In November I noticed a bit of rough skin on my elbow. The doctor told me I had psoriasis – pretty soon I was covered from head to toe in patches of scaly skin. I didn’t want to leave the house. In February, I read about a psoriasis remedy called Oregon Grape Root Extract, which was a natural cream and spray. To my amazement, after only four weeks of using it, I noticed a difference. My patches were beginning to shrink. And after about six weeks, they had all but cleared up. The more my psoriasis shrank, the more my confidence grew. Until eventually, I started to feel like going out again!