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How does plaque psoriasis affect quality of life?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

There are a number of things you can do on a daily basis to manage plaque psoriasis. Taking baths every day will help keep the skin clean and moist. Adding bath oils, salts and oatmeal to bath water can help relieve inflammation. Using a moisturizer immediately after bathing also helps the skin retain moisture and relieve itching. In dry weather, it may help to moisturize several times a day. For short periods of time, exposing yourself to sunlight can improve lesions. You must be careful with sun exposure; too much time in the sun can worsen symptoms. Use over-the-counter topical creams that contain salicylic acid or hydrocortisone to help with itchy and scaly skin. As you sleep, cover lesions with ointment and plastic wrap. This helps loosen scales, which can be washed away the next morning. Avoid stresses that may trigger flare ups in your symptoms. Don't drink alcohol, as it may impair some psoriasis treatments.

Dr. Mark W. Moronell, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

People with psoriasis face a higher risk of developing other chronic and serious health conditions, such as heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes. People with severe psoriasis have an elevated risk of heart attack.

A number of studies have found an increased risk of certain types of cancer in psoriasis patients, such as a form of skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma and lymphoma.

Psoriatic arthritis is a specific type of arthritis that has been diagnosed in approximately 10 to 30 percent of people who have psoriasis.

There is no  cure for psoriasis. The best that can be done is to control triggers, symptoms and outbreaks.

Controlling the itching associated with psoriasis is central to treatment. In addition to topical treatments, one of the simplest ways for people with psoriasis to control itch is by keeping the skin moisturized. Dry skin can induce and aggravate itch. Many people also rely on simple, inexpensive measures, such as pressing a wet towel against the itchy spot. Others find cold showers and cold packs offer relief. Other treatments for itch include antihistamines, steroids, capsaicin, topical anesthetics, topical immunomodulators, antidepressants and aspirin.

Wearing a layer of silk or soft cotton underneath problem garments can help.

Psoriasis is treated with one or more of the following:

Topical treatments—medications applied to the skin—are usually the first line of defense in treating psoriasis.

Corticosteroids, or just "steroids," are the most frequently used treatment for psoriasis. They are referred to as anti-inflammatory agents, because they reduce the swelling and redness of lesions. Anthralin, synthetic vitamin D3, and vitamin A are also used in prescription topical treatments to control psoriasis lesions.

Over-the-counter topicals come in many different forms. Two active ingredients, salicylic acid and coal tar, are approved by the FDA for the treatment of psoriasis. There are other products that contain substances such as aloe vera, jojoba, zinc pyrithione and capsaicin, which are used to moisturize, soothe, remove scales or relieve itching.

Having plaque psoriasis might be merely an annoying nuisance, like a fly you just can’t swat, or for some, it may significantly detract from their quality of life and daily activities. This largely depends on the severity of plaque psoriasis and how well it is treated. Some ways plaque psoriasis can affect quality of life include:

  • Constant itchiness (like when you had chicken pox, but worse) throughout the day, often disrupting daily activities
  • Itchiness, pain, cracking or bleeding at night, causing loss of sleep
  • The cosmetic impact (the way the lesion looks, or where the lesion is located on the body), including self-esteem issues, embarrassment or even depression
  • Distractions at work, school and the time and money needed to see a doctor

Managing flare-ups and comorbidities is the key to managing the disease and maintaining your quality of life.

Plaque psoriasis can affect your quality of life in that it can be frustrating. Sometimes your skin gets better, and you think everything is okay, but then it comes back. Sometimes a trigger can cause a flare-up, but other times, the plaques will come back and you won’t know why.

Having itchy and sore skin can make it tricky to do the things you love. It can even make it hard for you to get a good night’s sleep. Having psoriasis can change how you feel about yourself. The way your skin looks might make you feel embarrassed, sad and even angry.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.