Millions of Americans struggle with living in their own skin due to psoriasis. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, this chronic autoimmune skin disease affects more than 8 million people in the nation. It is caused when the top layer of the skin grows faster than the body can shed it. In a process of regeneration that should take weeks, new skin cells are formed within days due to an overactive immune system. This results in inflamed thick, red patches of skin called plaques developing on the body. Some people with psoriasis may also experience itchiness and a burning sensation.
Although psoriasis can appear anywhere on the body, typical locations that it affects include the outside of the elbows, knees and scalp. Psoriasis often appears between the ages of 15 and 25, but it can develop at any age. Symptoms of the disease can increase and decrease in intensity with worsening symptoms occurring during flare-ups. Flare-ups can be triggered by a number of factors such as stress, infections, some medications, alcohol, smoking and cold or dry weather. There is no permanent cure for the condition and it can greatly impact a person’s quality of life. In addition to being uncomfortable, the appearance of psoriasis plaques can affect self-esteem and cause depression. However, psoriasis can be treated with medications, topical creams, shampoos and moisturizers. Older adults have to be careful with their psoriasis and may have to adjust the way that they manage the condition.
As skin ages, it becomes thinner, drier and loses fat and elasticity. Older skin is more vulnerable to irritation and damage. Skin injuries can trigger psoriasis flare-ups. Also, medications that older adults take to manage other chronic conditions such as arthritis and heart disease may adversely interact with psoriasis treatment or cause flare-ups. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends that people who have psoriasis and are 65 and older see a dermatologist for an evaluation. To ensure skin health and proper management of psoriasis as a person ages, it’s important to have a thorough evaluation. The dermatologist may recommend lower doses of medications being taken or applied to the skin, different medications and new treatments such as light therapy. A dermatologist’s evaluation can also prevent possible side effects and adverse interactions with other medications.
In addition to an evaluation, older people with psoriasis should also take extra care with their skin. Some lifestyle changes can help protect their skin and reduce flare-ups. For example, bathing every other day instead of daily can help alleviate dry skin. Older people should also take care to avoid things that trigger flare-ups such as alcohol and smoking. Coupled with the help of a qualified dermatologist, making lifestyle changes can help older psoriasis sufferers improve their quality of life and live more easily in their own skin.