What causes Psoriasis?
The exact cause is not known but research suggests that it is caused by a problem with the immune system
Psoriasis is caused by a malfunctioning immune system. The malfunction has to do with white blood cells called T cells. Normally the T cells circulate throughout the body to detect and kill foreign bodies such as viruses or bacteria. However in Psoriasis, the T cells mistakenly attack healthy skin cells and trigger an overactive immune response. This leads to increased production of skin cells which build up in thick scaly patches on the skin surface. Just what causes the T cells to malfunction in people with psoriasis is not clear. Researchers have found that genetic tendency and environmental factors play a role.
Psoriasis is genetically inherited. Having one parent with psoriasis increases the risk of getting the disease, and having two parents with psoriasis doubles the risk. However even with a family history it is not absolutely necessary that one will get Psoriasis. Thus it is often found that people with a positive family history of Psoriasis do not suffer from it whereas people with no trace of psoriasis in the family for 2-3 generations actually suffer from it.
Viral or Bacterial Infections
Recurring throat infections such as streptococcal throat infections. The link between Psoriasis and the “long lived” streptococci bacteria has opened up wider options in treating Psoriasis. A study revealed that the remnants of streptococci bacteria which were left in the body following throat infection had the potential of causing psoriasis after a gap ranging from few months to several years. This was confirmed when the doctors found that when killed streptococcal material was injected in the skin of normal persons, psoriasis developed at the site of injection. Further confirmation of this happened when psoriatic patients started responding more favorably to an anti-streptococcal line of treatment.
Also known as isomorphic response, refers to the development of new psoriasis lesions following injury to the skin. Studies have shown that about 50% of people with psoriasis develop new lesions due to injuries caused by simple cuts, wounds, abrasions, mosquito bites or simply scratching their skin. The local trauma exposes the skin cells to activated T lymphocytes triggering new lesions. The new lesions occur within 7 to 14 days of injury to the skin.
Stress is one of the biggest psoriasis triggers. Psoriasis flares very easily when people are under stress and tends to improve when they are relaxed. In fact many people can trace the beginning of their psoriasis to a stressful period in their life. The reason is simple. When one is stressed the body reacts in a way that increases inflammation. The biggest challenge is a catch-22 situation as having psoriasis in itself can be quite stressful.
Winter, cold weather or sudden changes in weather
Winter tends to be the most challenging season for Psoriasis patients. Winter brings dry air, colder temperatures and reduced exposure to sunlight, all of which make psoriasis worse.
Smoking & Heavy alcohol consumption
Nicotine and tobacco smoke can cause oxidative stress which can in turn alter the immune system and trigger psoriasis.
People with Psoriasis should drink little or no alcohol. Several studies have shown that heavy drinkers experience more severe psoriasis symptoms. Excessive use of alcohol can cause deficiency of vitamins A and E which are crucial for healthy skin. Alcohol is a diuretic, apart from dehydrating the skin it can cause liver damage. It is known to cause flare-ups and limits the effectiveness of the ongoing treatment. These are many reasons for patients to say NO to this dangerous cocktail.
Including lithium, which is prescribed for bipolar disorder; high blood pressure medications such as beta blockers; anti-malarial drugs; and iodides.