Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic non-contagious skin problem that affects approximately 2-3% of the population.  This is caused by an overactive immune system triggering a cascade of events within the body and which leads onto inflammation and an acceleration of skin cell growth.  This causes your skin to experience a buildup of skin cells on the surface and which forms thick patches on the skin called plaques.  These have a red or pinkish appearance and which can sometimes be itchy, sore or painful.  Some types of psoriasis cause your fingernails to become thick, discoloured and pitted or can lead to joint stiffness and pain known as psoriatic arthritis.

What causes Psoriasis?

Your dermatologist will usually help identify the cause of your psoriasis.  For some patients, genetic factors are thought to be involved especially if you know somebody else in the family with psoriasis.  You may also have already identified triggering factors linked to when you first noticed having psoriasis, or which you might link with your flare-ups.  Some of these factors include stress, trauma to the skin such as sunburn or bruising, smoking, diet, excessive alcohol consumption or triggers related to the weather or hormones.

What can help psoriasis?

You may be recommended certain medications to help suppress the immune system or to slow down the production of skin cells.  Topical applications of tar can also benefit some patients by reducing inflammation and scaling, whilst some find UV light therapy helpful especially if the psoriasis is widespread.

If conventional treatments aren't working for you, you may be recommended other treatments such as acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine which are widely used in East Asian countries like China for psoriasis.  Clinical research has also suggested that these treatments may help with psoriasis by: 

  • Reducing inflammation thereby reducing irritation, pain and soreness;
  • Reducing the rate of turnover of new skin cells;
  • Changing the way your immune system attacks its own cells;
  • Reducing stress if this is a trigger for your symptoms.

The main aim of our treatments is to reduce the rate of skin-cell turnover which is central to psoriasis.  Because of this, we recommend an initial 4-week course of sessions to establish progress to treatment and which is the usual time-frame within which our patients report seeing an improvement in symptoms.  

For more information about acupuncture and Chinese medicine, please get in touch - we'd be happy to speak to you about your symptoms and provide you with further advice where possible.


References

Bensky D, Gamble A. Chinese Herbal Medicine : Materia Medica (1993). Seattle: Eastland Press. Paige D. ‘Skin Disease’ in Clinical Medicine (2002).  UK : WB Saunders.

Tse WP, Che CT, Liu K, Lin ZX. Evalulation of the anti-proliferative properties of selected psoriasis-treating Chinese medicines on cultured HaCaT cells. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Nov 3;108(1):133-41.

Walling A. Therapeutic modulation of the psychoneuroimmune system by medical acupuncture creates enhanced feelings of well-being. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2006 Apr;18(4):135-43. Review.

Posted by Lily Lai.