Around one in 50 people have psoriasis, where the skin grows more quickly than usual. Red patches and silvery-white scales grow on the elbows, knees, lower back and scalp. It is believed to be linked to abnormal immune reaction or the condition of the liver but an attack can be trig-gered by stress and hormonal changes.
Sun can help, along with bathing in warm water with a bath oil or tar solution can soften the psoriasis and lift the scale. Coal tar has been used for many years. Other treatments include steroids, Vitamin D-like compounds, ultraviolet and long-wave light treatment, and immune suppressant drugs.
New drug for psoriasis.
A new injection treatment, Raptiva (raptiva.com), which carries fewer side affects that most current drugs used in the treatment of psoriasis has been approved in the US.
Unlike traditional treatments, Raptiva does more than just attempt to contain the production of the excess skin cells that cause psoriasis. It works to block them by turning off the switch on the T-cell, which forms part of the immune system and which go into overdrive in psoriasis.
Trials have shown that a significant number of patients can gain long-term relief with a weekly injection of the drug.
Steroid creams thin the skin and so have to be controlled and light treatment has helped a lot of people but exposure has to be strictly limited because of the risk of skin cancer. There are also sticky tars, creams and emollients which help the condition but are unpleasant to administer.
Contact: Psoriatic Arthropathy Alliance: 0870 7703 212; www.paalliance.org
Microwaves are also being used as a psoriasis cure. This is a painless technique which leaves no scarring and takes only 15 minutes. The new treatment works using thermo- coagulation. A tiny needle is placed on the skin and used to heat up and destroy the tiny blood vessels feeding the psoriasis. It also treats thread veins and rosacea. The treatment is being carried out by Mr Brian Newman, a private surgeon who offers the Veinwave treatment at his clinics in Bolton and London.
Mr Newman, who has pioneered the use of Veinwave in the UK, has recently discovered that it seems to work on psoriasis, though psoriasis is an auto-immune disease — one triggered by abnormal reaction from the immune system — and, in theory, should not depend on a good blood supply to survive.
A handheld probe, with the very fine needle on the end, is attached to a machine producing microwaves. The surgeon places the probe on the surface of the affected skin and switches on the Veinwave machine.
The probe instantly heats up to 85 degrees centigrade for a fraction of a second and then switches off again. This process is repeated. The intense heat destroys the blood vessels keeping the patches of psoriasis supplied with the oxygen they need to thrive. The patient just feels a slight pressure on the skin and needs no anaesthetic.
Mr Newman says: ‘It might take several sessions of treat-ment, but the scaly lesions seem to just drop off. At first, the skin looks slightly worse because you get a slight inflammation but within ten days the affected area becomes smooth.’
The treatment is not yet available on the NHS and it costs around £250 to treat each affected area of the body.
For more information, call Veinwave on freephone 0800 542 2023 or go to www.veinwave.com
A natural therapy is the house leek. This is not the culinary leek but a rockery plant. Its leaves are a useful remedy for eczema and allergic dermatitis on the hands as they contain a mixture of antioxidants and other chemicals known to neutralise skin irritations. Pick off a rosette and pound the flesh, mixing it with a teaspoon of sweet almond or olive oil and massage into the affected area.