Prevention & Recovery

What causes common skin conditions

By: Kate Daley

Photography by Geneviève Caron Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by Geneviève Caron

Prevention & Recovery

What causes common skin conditions

By: Kate Daley

The scoop on psoriasis
Psoriasis occurs as a result  of both environmental factors and genetics. (If you have this chronic autoimmune disease, there’s a 30 percent chance that someone else in your family has it as well.) Psoriasis causes the skin to overproduce cells and increases inflammation, leading to bright red scaly spots on the skin. Unlike eczema, which appears on the folds of the body, psoriasis commonly pops up on the scalp, elbows, knees, palms, soles, lower back and genital region. Psoriasis is generally  an adult condition (though  Dr. Harvey Lui, a Vancouver dermatologist, has seen cases in children) that’s associated with other health problems. About 10 to 20 percent of psoriasis patients will develop arthritis, and they may have  a higher risk of diabetes, heart attack and stroke, explains  Dr. Lui.

While doctors aren’t  100 percent sure why this connection exists, he says inflammation in the skin and joints might affect your arteries or coronary, which could lead to heart disease. What eases psoriasis symptoms? Losing weight, quitting smoking and limiting your alcohol intake, says Dr. Lui. “Excessive alcohol is like fertilizer for psoriasis.”

Eczema explained

A common skin condition caused by a combination of genetics and environment, eczema often shows up in infancy as an itchy rash that can occur all over the body but usually appears on the face, neck and areas like the inner elbows in children and the hands in adults. Patients may have asthma or hay fever, or a family history of these conditions, says Dr. Harvey Lui, head of the department of dermatology and skin science at the University of British Columbia. While there’s no cure, there are some surprising new treatments. Topical immunomodulators are nonsteroid anti-inflammatories derived from natural sources, such as a fungus compound found in soil, which can help calm the immune system.

Another unusual treatment  is hiding in your cupboard: household bleach. According to Dr. Lui, a bleach bath is a cheap and easy way to control symptoms. Those with eczema often have a higher incidence of staph bacteria, which can cause infection and inflammation. The latest recommendation is to dilute a half cup of liquid bleach in a lukewarm bath and soak for 15 minutes. Always check with a doctor before attempting a new therapy.

For some tips on how to better take care of your skin, learn more about adult acne.

This content is vetted by medical experts


This story was originally titled "The Skin You're In" in the November 2014 issue.

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Prevention & Recovery

What causes common skin conditions

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