An introduction to the causes of psoriasis
There is still a lot more research required before you can get a more in-depth understanding about the different causes of psoriasis.
The immune system is known to play a key role in flare-ups of the condition but some of the evidence surrounding how this occurs is still shrouded in ambiguity, despite recent breakthroughs in identifying the genetic components that make you more susceptible to the affliction.
The connection between psoriasis and the immune system is complex and relies on a variety of factors, including your genetics and hormones. What is understood is that the immune system instigates an inflammatory response against its own cells which ultimately results in an overproduction of new skin cells.
Normally skin cells take weeks to form and grow, but in Psoriasis they manifest within days and are not shed like dead skin cells. Instead they are pushed to the surface of the skin, stimulating the symptoms of psoriasis.
Certain triggers can influence this inflammatory response – damage to the skin, certain genetic cells, a decrease in specific sex hormones, some strains of bacteria, stress, obesity and even lifestyle habits like smoking.
It is important to identify any possible causal factors and to take steps to support the immune system by not encouraging a release of inflammatory chemicals.
Your liver can play a vital role in influencing an outbreak of psoriasis. This is because your liver works hard to produce chemicals and filter toxins, expelling waste products from essential nutrients.
When the function of the liver is interrupted, these toxins will not be filtered or eliminated from your system, meaning that other organs like the kidneys, skin and lungs must take on the task of purging these impurities from your body.
These toxins are then perspired through your epidermis, stimulating a negative reaction from your skin, which may be sensitive to the impurities.1This can lead to an episode of psoriasis as your immune system may pick up on this unhappy response and trigger an autoimmune reaction.
Your genetics, the gene cells that you inherit from your parents, can determine every reaction that takes place in your body from your hair colour to your susceptibility towards certain diseases.
Your genes can even dictate how your immune cells respond in certain situations. Scientists have thus far recognised 25 genetic variants that can make you more vulnerable to psoriasis and an estimated 10% of the population inherit one or more of these genes.2
When the immune system comes into contact with these gene cells, it can cause trigger an adverse autoimmune reaction, leading to psoriasis symptoms
While there is no official evidence to suggest that our diet can change our psoriasis symptoms, what we eat can have a noticeable effect on our immune system.
Research suggests that obesity can be a trigger of psoriasis3 so eating a balanced and healthy diet can prevent you from becoming overweight.
If your diet is full of foods like caffeine, refined sugars and processed fats, then this can also make you more susceptible to psoriasis as your immune system will be flood with the inflammatory chemicals found in these products.
Alcohol should also be avoided as it contains histamine, can dry out skin, slow down the effects of possible psoriasis medication, and inhibit the function of your liver.
Stress can inspire a range of negative reactions in the body and can place a great deal of stress on the immune system.
This is because emotional distress can stimulate a ‘fight or flight’ reaction from the immune system, causing your blood vessels to dilate to allow immune cells to move more quickly across the body, and for inflammatory chemicals to flood your system.
These chemicals can exacerbate any existing psoriasis symptoms and even initiate a flare-up of psoriasis as the immune system is catapulted into overdrive, possibly producing more and more skin cells as a result of this inflammatory response.
Female sex hormones can encourage an episode of psoriasis due to influence that they have over the immune system, with flare-ups commonly occurring during puberty, pregnancy and menopause.
A study conducted in Croatia suggested the hormone fluctuations experienced throughout a women’s life can inspire psoriasis symptoms, with lowered levels of oestrogen “believed to be a major factor in the occurrence or exacerbation of psoriasis,” during the menopause.
This is because oestrogen is a hormone that can have both pro and anti-inflammatory effects on the immune system.
The environment that you inhabit can also have an influence over your psoriasis symptoms.
If you are exposed to low humidity or UV radiation, this can dry out your skin and encourage an episode of psoriasis to occur as the immune system will instinctively trigger an inflammatory response to injury or damage.
There are also certain lifestyle choices that can increase your chances of developing psoriasis – smoking is one of the major offenders.
Renowned dermatologist Dr. Naldi has even remarked that smoking “doubles a person's risk of getting psoriasis,”4 in large part due how it can affect the immune system and inflame the skin.