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Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease where white blood cells attack a patient’s own tissues. The term psoriasis is derived from the Greek term “psora” meaning “to itch”. According to findings by de Kerk & Nestle (2012), the disease has a number of clinical phenotypes that show up as a spectrum of anatomical, dynamic or qualitative forms of the disease such as small and large psoriasis. In other cases, the disease matches another condition altogether such as generalized pustular psoriasis (GPP).

In the normal functioning of the body, defensive white cells are released to finish off  bacteria that invade the system, thus fighting infection. The false attack initiated by the white blood cells causes the production of more skin cells at a much higher rate. For this reason, new skin cells develop quicker than expected. These are then pushed to the surface of the skin where they pile up. This causes the plaques known to be part of the condition. These plaques appear as red inflamed areas of the skin.

Typically, skin cells grow in the lower layers of the skin (deep within the skin) and slowly rise to the upper layers. Once they reach the surface of the skin, the cells take about a month to die and fall off. In the cases of psoriasis, this growth period is reduced to days. As such, the skin cells, which have rapidly developed, do not have time to fall off thus pile up, forming plaques on the skin.

Luckily there are effective treatments for this condition, one of which is Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have proven to be an effective tool in the treatment of psoriasis. Before we delve into the benefits of traditional Chinese medicine, let’s explore some background on this condition.

Prevalence of the disease

Psoriasis is one of the chronic diseases that inflame the skin. 1-3% of the general population is affected by the disease. In this number, 5-40% of patients are affected by psoriatic arthritis. The condition stops the patient from going on with their normal life since it puts a lot of psychological and financial strain on the patients. 89-90% of patients affected by psoriasis have plaque-type psoriasis, by far the most common type of the disease.

In total, about 7.5 million Americans are affected by the condition. Psoriasis can occur in combination with other conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, psoriatic arthritis as well as inflammatory bowel disease.

Symptoms of the disease

Psoriasis can be identified through some clinical manifestations in the patient’s body. These may come as singular symptoms that eventually pile up to show signs of the disease;

  • Thick, pitted nails
  • Swollen and painful joints
  • Dry skin which is prone to cracking and bleeding
  • Red inflamed and raised patches of skin
  • The area around the patches may be sore
  • A sensation of burning and itching around patches

Types of psoriasis

There are 5 different types of the condition;

  1.  Plaque psoriasis – It is the most prevalent form of the disease, with over 80% of patients suffering from its effects. Plaque psoriasis is known for the red patches of skin that form on various parts of the body. These patches are usually covered with scales that appear to be silvery. They can commonly be found on the scalp, elbows and knees.
  2.  Pustular psoriasis – It is a condition commonly identified more in adults than in children. It is known for the white blisters filled with pus. It also causes broad areas of the skin to be red and inflamed. This type of psoriasis can cover a smaller section of the skin and typically affects hands and feet. Even so, there are cases where the condition spreads further.
  3.  Guttate psoriasis – It is a condition common with children. Psoriasis of this kind is known for the pink spots that form on the skin. It does not produce the thick and raised spots common with plaque psoriasis. It affects areas of the body such as the arms, torso and legs.
  4.  Erythrodermic psoriasis – It is a very rare form of the disease that covers a large area of the skin at once. It produces scales that slough off in large sheets. With this type of psoriasis, the skin appears sunburned. Patients affected by this type of psoriasis may experience severe illness or fever.
  5.  Inverse psoriasis – Inverse psoriasis is characterized by areas of inflamed skin which are red and shiny. It typically affects areas of the body such as breasts, armpits, areas around skin folds, genitals and the groin.

Western Treatment of the disease

Dermatologists have had a challenging time coming up with treatments for the condition, which can lower the quality of life for the patient. Corticosteroids have been used to treat it but new developments in the treatment of psoriasis show that they are not recommended. That said, corticosteroids can have great effect in managing (not ably treating) the disease. Anti-malarias such as chloroquine, methotrexate and other mitosis inhibitors have also be applied in the treatment of the disease, showing reduced side effects.

TCM and acupuncture for treatment of psoriasis

Acupuncture is one of the core treatments in Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been used in many clinical trials in managing psoriasis. A study recently conducted by Lu CJ et al.(2012) on the treatment of psoriasis using acupuncture showed encouraging results for the alleviation of scale formation on the skin, erythema and thickening of the skin in some patients.

Liao SJ and Liao TA (1992) conducted another trial involving 61 cases of psoriasis. All subjects were adult men and women. All patients, with ages ranging from 22 to 84 years, had no responses to Western forms of treatment. Almost half of the patients treated with acupuncture showed an improvement for skin lesions. Over 9 sessions of acupuncture, the patients’ skin lesions cleared almost completely or completely.

Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective treatment for psoriasis, giving better results than Western treatments on many recorded occasions. There is need for recognition of the application of TCM in the treatment of this condition because current volumes of research show a positive outcome, which is highly encouraging.

If you’re suffering with psoriasis take advantage of our free consultations. We can show you how acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help you get to the root cause and become symptom free.