What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes skin cells to grow too quickly, resulting in thick, white, silvery or red patches of skin.

Normally, skin cells grow gradually and flake off about every four weeks. New skin cells grow to replace the outer layers of the skin as they shed. But in psoriasis, new skin cells move rapidly to the surface of the skin in days rather than weeks. They build up and form thick patches called plaques, ranging in size from small to large, most often appearing on the knees, elbows, scalp, hands, feet or lower back. Psoriasis is most common in adults, but children and teens can get it too.

Experts believe that psoriasis occurs when the immune system overreacts, causing inflammation and flaking of skin. In some cases, psoriasis runs in families. Psoriasis isn't contagious.

However, having psoriasis can be distressing and embarrassing, and many people, especially teens, avoid swimming and other situations where patches can show. But there are many types of treatments that can help keep psoriasis under control.

Symptoms of psoriasis 

Psoriasis can be mild, with small areas of rash. When psoriasis is moderate or severe, the skin gets inflamed with raised red areas topped with loose, silvery, scaling skin. If psoriasis is severe, the skin becomes itchy and tender. And sometimes large patches form and may be uncomfortable. The patches can join together and cover large areas of skin, such as the entire back.

Psoriasis can also affect the fingernails and toenails, causing the nails to pit, change color and separate from the nail bed. In some people, psoriasis causes joints to become swollen, tender, and painful. This is called psoriatic arthritis.

Symptoms often go into remission, even without treatment, and then return or flare up. Things that can cause these flare-ups include a cold and dry climate, infections, stress, dry skin and taking certain medicines.

 

Treatments for psoriasis

Most cases of psoriasis are mild, and treatment begins with skincare. This includes keeping your skin moist with creams and lotions. These are often combined with other treatments including shampoos, ultraviolet light and prescription medications.

Skincare at home can help control psoriasis:

  • Use creams or lotions, baths or soaks to keep your skin moist.
  • Try short exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet (UV) light.
  • Follow instructions for skin products and prescribed medicines.

Things to avoid if you have psoriasis

It's also important to avoid those things that can cause psoriasis symptoms to flare up or make the condition worse. Things to avoid include:

  • Skin injury. An injury to the skin can cause psoriasis patches to form anywhere on the body, including the site of the injury.
  • Stress and anxiety. Stress can cause psoriasis flare or can worsen symptoms.
  • Infection. Infections such as strep throat can cause psoriasis to appear suddenly, especially in children.
  • Certain medicines. Some medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs), beta-blockers and lithium, have been found to make psoriasis symptoms worse. Talk with your doctor as you may be able to take a different medicine.
  • Overexposure to sunlight. Short periods of sun exposure reduce psoriasis in most people, but too much sun can damage the skin and lead to skin cancer. Sunburns can trigger flares of psoriasis, so it’s very important to always wear a good sunscreen whenever you are outdoors.
  • Alcoholor smoking. Both alcohol and smoking use can cause symptoms to flare up.

 

October 29, 2015 by Blue Lizard Staff

Eczema - “The Itch that Rashes”

Eczema is a chronic problem for an estimated 35 million Americans. One to 3 percent affected are adults and 10-20 percent affected are children. Seventy percent of cases start in children younger than 5 years old, and about 60 percent of infants who have eczema continue to have one of more symptoms into adulthood. With proper treatment, the disease often can be controlled.

October is National Eczema Awareness Month and the National Eczema Association has launched a campaign to raise awareness of what eczema is and how those that have it suffer.

What is eczema?

Eczema is a general term for a set of chronic skin conditions caused by inflammation. Atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most common type and has been called “the itch that rashes.” The word “atopic” means an allergy that is usually hereditary, and “dermatitis” is defined as inflammation of the skin.

Symptoms of eczema

No matter which part of the skin is affected, eczema is almost always itchy. Sometimes the itching will start before the rash appears, but when it does, the rash most commonly appears on the face, back of the knees, wrists, hands or feet. It may also affect other areas as well.

Affected areas usually appear very dry, thickened, or scaly. In fair-skinned people, these areas may initially appear reddish and then turn brown. Among darker-skinned people, eczema can affect pigmentation, making the affected area lighter or darker.

In infants, the itchy rash can produce an oozing, crusting condition that happens mainly on the face and scalp, but patches may appear anywhere.

What Causes Eczema?

The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but it's thought to be linked to an overactive response by the body's immune system to an irritant.

In addition, eczema is commonly found in families with a history of other allergies or asthma. Also, defects in the skin barrier could allow moisture out and germs in.

Some people may have "flare-ups" of the itchy rash in response to certain substances or conditions. For some, coming into contact with rough or coarse materials may cause the skin to become itchy. For others, feeling too hot or too cold, exposure to certain household products like soap or detergent, or coming into contact with animal dander may cause an outbreak. Upper respiratory infections or colds may also be triggers. Stress may cause the condition to worsen.

Although there is no cure, most people can effectively manage their disease with medical treatment and by avoiding irritants. The condition is not contagious and can't be spread from person to person.

Treatment for eczema

The goal of treatment for eczema is to relieve and prevent itching, which can lead to infection. Since the disease makes skin dry and itchy, lotions and creams are recommended to keep the skin moist. These products are usually applied when the skin is damp, such as after bathing, to help the skin retain moisture. Cold compresses may also be used to relieve itching.

Over-the-counter products, such as hydrocortisone 1% cream, or prescription creams and ointments containing corticosteroids, are often prescribed to lessen inflammation. In addition, if the affected area becomes infected, antibiotics to kill the infection-causing bacteria may be prescribed by your doctor.

Other treatments include antihistamines to lessen severe itching, tar treatments (chemicals designed to reduce itching), phototherapy (therapy using ultraviolet light applied to the skin), and the drugcyclosporine for people whose condition doesn't respond to other treatments.

The FDA has approved two drugs known as topical immunomodulators (TIMs) for the treatment of mild-to-moderate eczema. The drugs, Elideland Protopic, are skin creams that work by altering the immune system response to prevent flare-ups. However, both drugs carry the FDA’s “black box” warning because there is a possible cancer risk associated with their use. The warning advises doctors to prescribe short-term use of Elidel and Protopic only after other available eczema treatments have failed in adults and children over the age of 2. It should not be used in kids under age 2.

Preventing eczema flare-ups

Eczema outbreaks can sometimes be avoided or the severity lessened by following these simple tips.

  • Moisturize every day.
  • Wear cotton or soft fabrics. Avoid rough, scratchy fibers and tight clothing.
  • Take lukewarm baths and showers, using mild soap or non-soap cleanser
  • Gently pat your skin dry with a soft towel – do not rub.
  • Apply a moisturizer within three minutes after bathing to “lock in” moisture.
  • When possible, avoid rapid changes of temperature and activities that make you sweat.
  • Learn your eczema triggers and avoid them.
  • Use a humidifier in dry or cold weather.
  • Keep your fingernails short to help keep scratching from breaking the skin.
  • Some people with allergies find it helps to remove carpets from their house, and give pets dander treatments.
  • Use unscented, mild skincare and sunscreen productswith no additives or chemicals.

 

Written by Cristi Driver

 

October 08, 2015 by Blue Lizard Staff

New Advances in Melanoma Treatments

Melanoma is considered the most deadly form of skin cancer, striking more than 75,000 people each year. It is the fifth most often diagnosed type of cancer in men and the seventh in women. Chemotherapy has been used as the main treatment, but it only shrinks melanoma 10 to 15 percent and hasn’t been shown to significantly improve the overall survival of patients. However, there is good news. Two new treatments have been developed that show positive results in fighting melanoma. One type of drug helps boost the immune system and the other targets a specific gene mutation associated with melanoma.

BRAF is an oncogene. This gene, when mutated, can cause cancer. It shows up in about 50 percent of patients with metastatic melanoma, as well as those with other cancers. One new drug, Dabrafenib, targets this defective gene and inhibits BRAF and slows or even stops the production of melanoma cells. “Brain metastases in most (nine out of 10) patients given Dabrafenib reduced in size, with four patients' metastases completely resolving," said Dr. Gerald Falchook, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The drug Trametinib inhibits MEK, another defective gene. Both drugs delay disease progression and can increase patient survival by months or even years. In combination with other drugs, it may prove to deliver even better results.

A second new treatment works with a patient’s immune system. Instead of targeting the tumor and eradicating it directly, it strengthens the T cells enabling the T cells to attack the melanoma. Ipilimumab (brand name Yervoy) is a drug of this type that has been shown to work for years and even cure some patients. Chemotherapy, while working quicker to shrink tumors, usually only works for months.

Steven J. O’Day, M.D., chief of research and director of the melanoma program at The Angeles Clinic and Research Institute in Los Angeles, Ca. commented “Now, with a disease like metastasized melanoma with no treatment options we’ve suddenly broken through with two major areas [immunity and gene makeup] and many more to come.”

As good as the new drug therapies are, the best way to survive cancer is through early detection and treatment. Teams from Harvard Medical School and the Brigham and Woman’s Hospital departments of Medicine and Pathology have discovered an indicator for malignant melanoma. Certain elements in normal pigment-producing skin cells and benign mole cells are missing in melanoma cells. The absence of those elements is a key indicator of possible melanoma.

Talk to your doctors about the latest developments in fighting melanoma to establish your individual treatment plan.

 Written by Jo Northup

August 21, 2015 by Blue Lizard Staff
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