Friday, September 10, 2010

Natural Solutions for Itchy, Scaly, Psoriasis

An estimated 7 million Americans suffer from psoriasis, one of the most embarrassing and difficult to treat skin conditions. It is a chronic condition that can appear and disappear randomly, appearing as red, itchy, scaly patches of skin, known as plaques. These plaques are most often found on the scalp, elbows, knees, and knuckles. Psoriasis is caused by a quickening in the time it takes for the skin cell regeneration process. Usually, it takes about a month for your body to create new skin cells and slough off the old, dead skin cells, allowing for continuous regeneration of skin. For people with psoriasis, this process can be reduced to 3 or 4 days, resulting in a build up of dry, dead skin cells on the surface, creating plaques. The overall cause of psoriasis is still unknown, making it difficult to create very effective and targeted treatments. But, there are a lot of treatments out there, both prescription and natural, which have been shown to help relieve, reduce, or even temporarily cure the effects of psoriasis.

There are a variety of prescription and over-the-counter treatments that can help. There are several biologic and systemic prescription medications being FDA approved lately. Although they have shown to be effective, most are administered through regular injections, have severe side effect risks, and require regular check-ups and tests. They also tend to only work for a limited time frame (1-3 years) and result in severe psoriasis outbreaks after ending the medication. It’s no wonder many people search out easier and safer treatment options.

The most common treatments are salicylic acid and steroid based topical creams and ointments. While these can be effective with minimal risk of side effects, they can sometimes be harsh on your skin and many people have an aversion to regular steroid based medications. Another common treatment is coal tar, which can be found in shampoos and creams. Unfortunately, coal tar treatments are messy, have a horrible smell, and can easily stain fabrics. These also can increase sensitivity to sunlight and have been shown to lose effectiveness over time, leaving those suffering to search for other options.

Luckily, there are several natural treatments that have shown to help relieve the effects of psoriasis. Although many of these also can lose effectiveness over time and each treatment may not work for everyone, there is a wide range of healthy treatments to choose from.

The most effective treatment, natural or otherwise, is sunlight. The ultraviolet (UV) sunlight helps to reduce skin inflammation and slow down the skin cell process. Studies have shown that 60% of psoriasis sufferers have found significant improvement or even complete clearing of psoriasis through limited, daily exposure to sunlight. The downside, of course, is that sunlight also has negative effects on skin, increasing the risk of cancer and premature aging of skin. This makes it very important to use this treatment method carefully by limiting your daily exposure to short periods of time. As an alternative to natural sunlight, many dermatologists have turned to the use of UVB emitting lamps and lasers for treatment, creating a more controlled exposure to the UVB rays, while eliminating the more harmful UVA rays. This has shown to be a very effective and safe treatment, with most people finding complete relief of plaques after 10 treatments. But, this treatment can be costly and some insurance plans may not cover the costs.

There are also a variety of safe, effective, budget friendly, natural treatments that can be found around the average house. One of the most effective at-home treatments is sea salt, by taking regular sea-water baths or applying sea-water to affected areas on a daily basis. It is often recommended to follow up sea salt treatments by applying olive oil to the affected areas. Other recommended involve applying compresses onto the plaques made from warm, de-veined cabbage leaves, fresh banana leaves, warm green tea bags, jasmine flower paste, or apple cider vinegar. These will help moisturize the skin, reduce inflammation, and help loosen and remove plaques. Using mild soaps and applying a daily, unscented moisturizer is also an important part of treatment. Also, regular application of aloe, vitamin D, oat extracts, and tea tree oil, either directly or included in a daily lotion, can also be helpful.

These are just a few of the many treatments that have been helpful to people suffering from psoriasis, but no treatment has shown to be reliable for every person and there are no miracle cure for this condition. But, there are many options out there to test and find which treatment works best for your situation. The important aspect of any psoriasis treatment should include an approach toward overall healthy and hydrated skin. In addition to the topical treatments, it is also important to incorporate exercise and a healthy diet, including one rich in omega fatty acids, as many have found that a general healthy lifestyle can also help relieve the effects of psoriasis. So, while psoriasis can be a difficult skin disorder, a healthy lifestyle, maintaining skin moisture, and use of some natural treatments can help reduce outbreaks and make this condition a lot more manageable.

-- The hydrOtion team

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