What is Psoriasis?

psoriasis on a person's back, before treatment by acupuncturePsoriasis is a skin condition in which new skin cells grow faster then normal, causing a thickening of the skin. This is caused by an underlying issue with the immune system and can be triggered by genetic or environmental factors.

There are five main types of psoriasis; plaque psoriasis, guttate psoriasis, flexural psoriasis, pustular psoriasis and erythrodermic psoriasis. These all have slightly different symptoms and affect different parts of the body.

 

Plaque Psoriasis

This is the most common form of psoriasis. It usually affects the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back. It causes dry, red, scaly patches which may be itchy or sore.

 

Guttate Psoriasis

This type of psoriasis often occurs following a streptococcal infection and is more common in children and teens. It causes small, drop-like patches which often go away by themselves over time.

 

Flexural Psoriasis

This type of psoriasis affects skin creases such as the armpits, groins and underneath the breasts. It causes large, smooth, red patches which are aggravated by heat, friction and sweat.

 

Pustular Psoriasis

This rare form of psoriasis can occur anywhere on the body and causes pus-filled blisters on the skin.

 

Erythrodermal Psoriasis

This is the rarest and most severe form of psoriasis. In erythrodermal psoriasis, almost the whole body is covered. This can also lead to complications such as dehydration, infection, malnutrition and even heart failure.

 

Psoriasis in Traditional Chinese Medicine

illustration of psoriasis lesions on trunk and armIn traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), psoriasis is viewed as a build up of too much dampness within the body. This causes the skin to become thickened and raised. This dampness can combine with either cold or heat, which is what gives different types of psoriasis their different symptoms.

Plaque psoriasis and guttate psoriasis are both caused by dampness combining with cold within the body to form a condition known as damp-cold. The symptoms of damp-cold type psoriasis are:

  • Raised, rough, red patches on the skin
  • Silvery scales which are shed easily
  • The skin becomes less scaly after a warm bath or with sunlight
  • Symptoms are worse in winter and better in summer
  • You may be more bothered by the appearance of the skin rather than any discomfort 

Flexural, pustular and erythrodermal psoriasis are all examples of dampness combining with heat to form what is known as damp-heat. The main symptoms include:

  • Raised, hard, red patches on the skin
  • White scales
  • Itching
  • Bleeding
  • Symptoms tend to move from place to place and spread quickly

 

Treating Psoriasis with Traditional Chinese Medicine

Psoriasis can be stubborn and take a long time to improve. However, if you are willing to be patient, the treatment principles for both types of psoriasis are quite simple.

Damp-Cold Psoriasis 

For damp-cold psoriasis, it is necessary to eliminate the dampness and warm the cold. This can be done using herbs, acupuncture and local treatments such as moxibustion.

Moxibustion is a technique which involves burning a herb called moxa on the skin to provide a gentle warmth. In the treatment of psoriasis it is common to burn the moxa on slices of fresh ginger which gives it an added warming effect.

 

Damp-Heat Psoriasis

 For damp-heat type psoriasis, it is necessary to eliminate the dampness and cool the heat. Again, this can be done using herbs, acupuncture or special, local treatments.

One especially effective local treatment for this type of psoriasis is plum-blossom tapping. This involves using a hammer-like tool with seven small needles to tap the psoriasis area. It is a great way to relieve itching without scratching and causing more damage to the skin.

 

The Skin is the Third Lung

 Another important consideration in both types of psoriasis is treating the Lungs. In TCM, the skin is seen as the third lung, and any skin disorders can be a sign of an imbalance in this system. In order to treat the root cause of the condition, it is vital to nourish and restore balance to the Lungs as well as using local treatments. This can be done using herbal formulae and/or acupuncture. 

Your practitioner may also give you lifestyle and dietary advice depending on your condition. This will help you to be proactive in improving your psoriasis symptoms between treatments and give you the best possible chance of relief. 

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