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Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the skin. 

The upper skin layer (the epidermis) is made up of cells that proliferate then migrate to the surface of the skin, where they die and become keratinised. Normally this process takes around four weeks, but in psoriasis sufferers the cells proliferate almost ten times as fast and migrate to the surface of the skin in just a few days. The dead cells cannot be shed quickly enough with the effect that the skin becomes thick and scaly. 

In Switzerland, about 2% of the population suffers from psoriasis.

How to recognise psoriasis

There are various types and sub-types of psoriasis. The most common form (95% of cases) is Psoriasis vulgaris, which manifests as areas of red, itchy and extremely scaly skin. Known as plaques, these areas can develop anywhere on the body, but they most commonly affect the scalp, elbow, the knees, the cruciate ligament region and the anal fold. Sufferers frequently have more than one form of psoriasis.

Which factors make psoriasis more likely?

The causes of psoriasis are not fully understood. It is known that the disease has a hereditary component, but additional factors are usually required before the disease breaks out, including:
  • Infections or other diseases

  • Skin injuries

  • Medicines

  • Hormonal causes

  • Metabolic disorders

  • Stress

  • Smoking

  • Alcohol

  • Poorly balanced diet

  • Being overweight

Psoriasis cannot be prevented. The best way to stop the disease from breaking out or to reduce its extent is to avoid the provoking factors mentioned above.

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It still is not possible to cure psoriasis completely, but with today’s treatments and therapies, many sufferers can be almost symptom-free. There are various approaches to treating psoriasis:

Basic therapy

Skincare with moisturising products keeps the skin supple, protects it against injury and alleviates itching. Some skincare products also contain special active substances such as urea that are intended to help with skin scaling. Patients must be disciplined about sticking to their skincare routine, even during symptom-free periods.

Local therapy

Mild cases of psoriasis can generally be treated with topical medications, such as skincare products containing cortisone or vitamin D3.

Physical therapy

Phototherapy or physical therapy can be used to treat moderate or severe psoriasis, especially if topical treatment alone is insufficient. Phototherapy involves exposing the plaques to ultraviolet (UV) light. The UV light reduces skin inflammation and slows down cell division. Sometimes doctors use medicines that make the skin more sensitive to light.

Sea water and sunlight also have a positive effect on the disease and help to alleviate skin symptoms. However, it is essential to avoid sunburn and excessive sunbathing.

Systemic therapy

Systemic treatment is required for severe psoriasis or psoriasis that does not respond sufficiently to local and physical therapy. With this therapy, sufferers are given special medications to take either by injection or orally. They affect the body’s immune reactions. The medications are highly effective and usually produce good results. However, they are also very expensive and require correct administration and regular doctor’s appointments because of the serious side effects they can cause.

The efficacy of other treatments like herbal remedies such as birch bark and aloe vera has not been proven. For that reason, medical organisations do not recommend them for the treatment of psoriasis.

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Among other things, the success of the therapy for this chronic, regularly relapsing skin disease depends on how disciplined the sufferer is in sticking to their treatment. Skincare is the basis of every treatment. Be thorough with your skincare even in the symptom-free periods and avoid anything that could make your psoriasis worse.

Tips and tricks for day-to-day life

  • Store skincare products in the fridge. The cool temperature will help to additionally alleviate the itching.

  • Protect inflamed areas of skin against sun and heat exposure.

  • Make sure that the air in your home is not too dry. Humidity of over 40% and room temperatures of 20 to 25°C are ideal.

  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Avoid spicy dishes and excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption.

  • If you are well-balanced mentally, this will have a positive influence on your skin.

Unfortunately psoriasis can affect your whole body. As a result, psoriasis sufferers also have increased rates of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes mellitus and inflammatory bowel and joint diseases. These are referred to as co-morbidities (accompanying diseases) of psoriasis. Psoriasis is not a life-threatening condition but it can cause disability in severe cases.

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Further information:

Medication brochure 
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(available in German and French)

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