Thursday, June 11, 2009
If you have been suffering from sore throat recently, then watch out for any signs of psoriasis flare-ups in the next few weeks. Almost 80 percent of guttate psoriasis onset is triggered by streptococcal (or strep) bacteria, which causes sore throats.
Guttate Psoriasis' Clinical Apperance
In its clinical manifestation, guttate psoriasis may make you look like you had red polka dots of varying sizes all over your body. The Latin word, gutta, means ‘drop,’ hence, the description of droplike, or raindrop-like papules can often be found in books.
If you are more familiar with plaque psoriasis, you would most likely not recognize this condition as psoriasis from a distance. The red-colored spots may be mistaken for chicken pox, because the diameter of the lesions usually ranges between 0.1 and 1.0 centimeter. While the identifiable flakes are also present in guttate psoriasis, it is not as scaly as those in plaque psoriasis.
Guttate psoriasis is usually common among children and young adults. It could be the early manifestation of psoriasis or it could signify a looming acute flare-up of a pre-existing psoriatic condition, usually the plaque-type. If you have plaque psoriasis, then it is easier to diagnose guttate psoriasis. However, if it is the first time that this disease manifested, it may not be immediately diagnosed as psoriasis. Other conditions, such as pityriasis rosea and secondary syphilis, may be suspected. Family history and lab tests to confirm strep infection will be helpful in early diagnosis of guttate psoriasis.
Association of Strep Infection with Psoriasis
The immune system becomes overactive when there is streptococcal throat infection. It was in 1916 when Winfield made an observation that streptococcal infection is associated with psoriasis. The infection activates T-cells at various spots in the skin. These T-cells, which can penetrate into the skin, may mistakenly recognize certain foreign substances in the skin as part of the infection and proceed to attack them.
Some carbohydrates or keratins possess chemical identifiers similar to bacterial antigens. In a sense, the body is confused and over-reacts, believing the strep invasion is bigger than it actually is. As a result, some patients go on to develop the chronic condition of plaque psoriasis.
Guttate Psoriasis Treatment
In most cases, guttate psoriasis is resolved if the underlying infection is treated. It may take a few weeks, or months, for guttate psoriasis to be completely gone. In some patients, the condition does not recur. But in others, it temporarily worsens a preexisting psoriasis (which eventually recedes to its previous state) or it opens the possibility of minor recurrences of psoriasis.
To address strep infection, doctors often recommend a 10- to 14-day antibiotic therapy. Natural sunlight or ultraviolet B therapy may also be prescribed if there is no improvement after a month since the outbreak of guttate psoriasis, or if you have preexisting plaque psoriasis. If the doctor does not prescribe antibiotics, you may want to make sure it is not needed — since you do have the strep infection — or ask for a second opinion.
Photo credit: Foxtongue (flickr.com)
Bergstrom, K. and Kimball, A. (2005). 100 Questions & Answers about Psoriasis. (Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers).
Bos, J. (2004). Skin Immune System, Third Ed. (Boca Raton: CRC Press).
Camisa, C. (2004). Handbook of Psoriasis, Second Ed. (Malden: Blackwell Publishing).
Friday, June 5, 2009
The thought of living with psoriasis for the rest of your life is not an easy thing to accept. Although we have witnessed medical advances in recent decades, we are still being told to face the fact that there is no available cure for psoriasis yet. The most we can do is to manage the symptoms and try the best we can to avoid the triggers that cause psoriasis flare-ups.
We often ask our dermatologists what things cause the disease, and sometimes, even the specialists do not know how to explain or would rather not go into those details. Others simply prescribe different medications, whether topical, oral, or biologics, to treat the disease. The truth really is that the main cause of psoriasis is, up to this date, still unknown.
Researchers currently believe this hereditary disease is mediated by a set of T-cells whose autoimmune profile is highly susceptible to certain triggers. Some factors that could provoke the adverse reactions include stress, both physical and emotional; particular skin injuries or traumas (associated with Koebner’s phenomenon); bacterial infections (which triggers guttate psoriasis); and, various drugs (such as beta-blockers and anti-malarial medications).
Social and Psychological Implications
We often find it difficult to make the necessary adjustments in our lives when we are told that we have psoriasis. The disease does not only affect our physical appearance, but it also gives discomforts due to its itchiness and pain. People who do not understand psoriasis often think that we have a contagious disease. Sometimes, we find ourselves discriminated against in public places. It leads us to isolate ourselves from the public because of embarrassment and the stigma brought about by the disease. Depression, which only aggravates the condition, can also be found in some psoriasis patients.
Unlike vitiligo (another skin disorder) which can be disguised by cosmetic concealment, we cannot hide our skin lesions using that method. (Paging cosmetic companies, can you please manufacture one for us?) Our choices of clothing are constrained. We may want to wear the latest fashion styles, but we are restricted by our disease. Indeed, psoriasis has brought a significant impact in our quality of life.
Basic Things We Can Do
Managing the disease is a challenging task for us. Accepting psoriasis as a part and parcel of our lives will surely divert our emotional energy from depressing thoughts to more productive activities; this acceptance should relieve us of unnecessary stress associated with the condition. While fear and ignorance about the disease is still common these days, we can choose to have a positive attitude despite living with psoriasis. At least, society no longer ostracizes people with psoriasis unlike in biblical times.
Photo credit: tomswift46 (flickr.com)
Buxton, P. and Morris-Jones, R. (2007). ABC of Dermatology. (Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell).
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Do you have plaque psoriasis (psoriasis vulgaris)? Treating plaque psoriasis with a topical form of aloe vera tends to reduce flare-ups. This is according to a research report presented during the International Congress of Dermatology (ICD) held in Prague last May. When compared with patients who use topical steroid, those who underwent aloe vera treatment showed greater improvement of their plaque psoriasis after eight weeks.
How to Identify Plaque Psoriasis
Plaque psoriasis is easier to identify than the other manifestations of this condition. Raised lesions, made vivid by bright red inflammation, form on your skin. Eventually the dead skin cells bunch up into off-white scales covering the lesions. Psoriasis vulgaris, or plaque psoriasis, is commonly found on your scalp, elbows, knees and trunk.
As the inflammation spreads, plaques may spread over larger patches of skin and merge into one another. The lesions may also appear in mirror-like locations on opposite sides of your body. Psoriasis occurs anywhere on the body, but plaque lesions seem to have a special affinity for your scalp, knees and elbows.
If you want to see some photographs of plaque psoriasis, you may want to click on this link of PsoriasisInternational.org. (Warning: You might find some of the pictures gross!)
The Aloe Vera Effect
The latest study reported at the ICD was not the first of its kind. Another clinical study was conducted in 1998 which found that applying aloe vera cream on affected skin three times daily for at least 28 days helped to control the psoriasis inflammation. In certain cases, skin outbreaks did not recur for about one year.
It is of no surprise that studies have found aloe vera to be beneficial to psoriasis patients. Legend has it that Cleopatra and Nefertiti used aloe vera as part of their beauty treatment regimen. The moisturizing characteristic of aloe vera, in fact, is the attribute that has encouraged me to use aloe vera as part of my psoriasis treatment. That's why I was ecstatic when I read about this latest report from the ICD.
Instead of using aloe vera cream, I use aloe vera gel. I usually apply the aloe gel after shower. I have been practicing this ritual for about two months now. It has an amazing effect on my skin. I still use corticosteroid cream, of course, but I keep it to the minimum, say, twice a week application.
You may want to try applying aloe vera cream, or aloe vera gel, on the affected parts. It is believed that the moisturizing and anti-inflammatory characteristics of aloe vera improve plaque psoriasis. Aloe vera has always been considered an alternative treatment without the detrimental local and systemic effects associated with chronic use of topical steroids.
Photo credit: Biology Big Brother (flickr.com)
Balch, P. (2002). Prescription for Herbal Healing. (New York: Avery).
LeVan, L. (1999). The Psoriasis Cure. (New York: Avery).