All about Psoriasis – Causes, Treatments & Therapies

23 December 2016


Psoriasis is a long -term autoimmune disease which affects the skin, resulting patches of red, scaly skin, which are typically extremely itchy and painful. This condition affects 2% of Australia’s population and conditions can vary from localized in one area, to complete body coverage. Common problem areas for psoriasis are: knees, elbows, scalp, torso, palms, and the soles of feet.


It is known to have a varying or fluctuating course, where the disease improves and then worsens, and is thought to be incurable but not untreatable.

Psoriasis can occur in anyone from babies, to elderly people, but the most common age of diagnosis is in early adult years.


This chronic disease is caused the rapid increase in the production of skin cells, which, when these skin cells reach the surface and die, their sheer volume causes a build-up, and raised red plaques covered in white scales appear. This increase in the production of skin cells is caused by the immune system being ‘triggered’ by environmental factors, resulting in the production of excess inflammatory chemicals.


Studies show that people with psoriasis are more susceptible to illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and psoriasis sufferers are between 10 and 30% more likely to develop psoriatic arthritis.



  • Plaque psoriasis: This variation of the disease makes up 90% of psoriasis cases. It is characterized by red, raised patches with white/silver scales on top.
  • Guttate psoriasis (eruptive psoriasis): This form is characterized by ‘drop-shaped’ lesions on the body (mainly on the torso and limbs), and most commonly occurs in children and young adults. It is usually triggered by a bacterial infection, e.g. the streptococcal bacterial infection.
  • Inverse/Flexural psoriasis: This variation is characterized by bright red, shiny lesions that occur in skin folds such as the armpits, groin area, abdominal folds, and under the breasts. This is usually caused by aggravation due to sweat and skin rubbing together, and yeast overgrowths.
  • Pustular psoriasis: This form commonly presents with small non-infectious pus-filled blisters. It is a less common form of psoriasis, and can be quite painful.
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis: This is the rarest form of psoriasis, and looks like large, severe burns covering large portions of the body. It can be extremely painful and can sometimes require hospitalization, and the rash constantly itches and burns. This form often develops from other, less severe, forms of psoriasis.
  • Palmoplantar psoriasis: This is the variation where the palms of the hand and/or the soles of the feet are involved.
  • Nail involved psoriasis: This affects about 50% of psoriasis sufferers, and is characterized by nail pitting, discolouration, grooves, loosening or crumbling of the nail, thickened skin under the nails, and coloured patches or spots under the nails.
  • Scalp psoriasis: This is where the psoriasis progresses to the scalp, causing severe dandruff, itchiness (especially around the hairline), hair loss, scalp infections, and even difficulty in performing regular hair hygiene. It can often extend onto the face, neck, and ears.
  • Psoriatic arthritis: This is a destructive form of arthritis that affects any joints, but mainly the joints of the hands, knees, and ankles. This form of arthritis is diagnosed when psoriasis sufferers also have painful and swollen joints.
  • Psoriasis annularis: This rare form of psoriasis is characterized by circular or ring-like lesions of psoriasis.
  • Napkin psoriasis: Occurs in infants in the diaper area, resulting in typical plaques, or a red, weeping rash.


  • Plaques: Dry, red, raised patches of skin covered with silvery scales
  • Dents and the discolouration of nails
  • Small sores on the chest, legs, arms, or scalp
  • Swollen and painful joints
  • Itchiness
  • Possible hair loss
  • Dandruff



  • Injury or trauma to the skin: For example: operations, cuts, severe sunburn, and bites
  • Infections such as tonsillitis, shingles, streptococcal, and other bacterial or viral infections
  • Drugs/medicines: These are usually steroids, lithium, anti-inflammatories, certain antibiotics, and some blood pressure medications
  • Stress
  • Alcohol
  • Hormonal changes
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Smoking can worsen psoriasis
  • Changes in seasons or climate can worsen psoriasis (it is usually worse in winter)
  • Other autoimmune disorders


  • Moisturizers
  • Tar preparations: These reduce inflammation, itchiness, and pain
  • Dithranol (topical)
  • Corticosteroid creams
  • Topical Vitamin D: This slows down skin cell growth
  • Ultraviolet light therapy
  • Steroid injections (into the plaques/lesions)
  • Bath salts
  • Medications such as methotrexate, neotigason, cyclosporine, and calcipotriol
  • Biologic therapies (severe cases): These are injected into the skin and work by suppressing portions of the immune inflammatory response that occurs in psoriasis sufferers. Examples of these drugs are: adalimumab, infliximab, etanercept, and ustekinumab.
  • Surgeries: It is thought that the removal of the tonsils may help people with chronic psoriasis
  • Laser therapy
  • Pulsed dye lasers: This therapy destroys tiny blood vessels in psoriasis plaque areas, cutting off blood flow, and reducing cell growth
  • Dietary changes: Diets rich in Omega-3, EPA, and DHA are beneficial, and alcohol, red meat, and dairy should be avoided
  • Stress reduction
  • Trigger avoidance
  • Good skin hygiene


  • Aloe Vera: This herb has anti-inflammatory properties and has been known to reduce redness, scales, and itchiness in psoriasis sufferers
  • Apple cider vinegar: Applied topically on the scalp, this helps to reduce itchiness as it is a disinfectant. Its use is not recommended if the skin is cracked or bleeding
  • Capsaicin: This is the component in chillies that makes them hot. Applied topically in creams and lotions, it blocks nerve endings that transmit pain. Capsaicin has been proven to reduce pain, inflammation, redness, and scales in psoriasis sufferers
  • St John’s Wort: This herb is used to treat burns, bruises, wounds, ulcers, and skin complaints such as psoriasis and eczema due to its effectiveness as an anti-inflammatory agent.
  • Dried sea salts: Added to bath water these sea salts help to ease irritation and itching. Make sure to moisturize afterwards
  • Oats: Applied as a paste, oats reduce redness and itchiness of the skin
  • Tea tree oil: This oil has antiseptic qualities, helping to prevent infections, and has been thought to relieve scalp psoriasis
  • Turmeric: Turmeric has powerful antioxidant and inti-inflammatory properties
  • Mahonia Aquifolium: Also known as Oregon Grape, this herb slows certain immune responses, making it a good treatment for psoriasis when applied topically
  • Gotu Kola: This herbs anti-inflammatory properties make it a good treatment for psoriasis
  • Barberry: This herb is a powerful antibacterial agent with antibiotic properties and is known to alleviate itchiness and inflammation that occurs due to psoriasis
  • Chickweed: This herb prevents itching and irritation, while also reducing swelling, inflammation, and encouraging faster skin healing
  • Burdock root: This herb aids with skin health due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial compounds. It also improves blood flow and circulation to the skin
  • Calendula: Also known as Marigold, this plant treats psoriasis effectively due to its anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties
  • Skullcap: Because this herb has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, it alleviates inflammation, redness, and itchiness in psoriasis sufferers
  • Milk thistle: This herb is an anti-inflammatory, and also prevents excessive cell growth and inhibits T-cell activation, which is a known cause for skin inflammation
  • Chamomile: This herb is soothing, and also has anti-inflammatory properties
  • Evening Primrose: This is high in Omega-6 fatty acids which help in the treatment of itchy skin conditions. It also has anti-inflammatory properties
  • Dong Quai: This herb has been said to increase the effectiveness of UV light therapy when consumed before treatment
  • Lavender: Soothes the skin due to its antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Slippery elm: This herb is used to treat wounds, ulcers, and boils
  • Olive oil: This oil has anti-inflammatory properties and, due to its high Vitamin D and fatty acid levels, makes an excellent moisturizer for dry skin
  • Pine Bark Extract: This herb contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Liquorice root: Applied directly onto the lesions as a tincture or extract, this herb reduces redness, itchiness, and inflammation. When ingested, liquorice root is good for calming and reducing stress
  • Beta-carotene supplements: These get converted into Vitamin A, which is essential for healthy skin
  • Zinc: This element is vital for skin health. It can be taken in tablets as a supplement, or in foods such as beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, and chickpeas
  • Vitamin A: This Vitamin is essential for skin healing and health. It can be taken in tablet form or found in foods such as carrots, cantaloupe, tomatoes, kale, mango, and watermelon
  • Myrrh oil: When used topically, this oil is great for healing flaky, cracked skin caused by psoriasis
  • Frankincense: This has antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties
  • Coconut oil: This oil is a gentle moisturizer with anti-inflammatory properties
  • Meditation and Yoga: These therapies reduce the effects of psoriasis by reducing stress, a known trigger of this condition
  • Moisturize: Helps to prevent skin dryness and irritation
  • Sun exposure: This is beneficial to psoriasis sufferers as it is a natural source of UV, and works in the same way as light therapy
  • Acupuncture: In Chinese medicine, psoriasis is thought to be caused by a stagnation of blood. Acupuncture improves blood flow and circulation to the skin