Psoriasis often leads to patches of thick, red inflamed skin covered with silvery scales. It can occur anywhere on the body but is more common on the elbows, knees, scalp and palms. Sometimes it can affect the joints and cause psoriatic arthritis. It is the itch that is the most debilitation symptom. Psoriasis can nearly affect 3% of the population.
About one third of the people with psoriasis has a family genetic connection and is regarded as an auto immune disease which in this case involves over active T –cells. The symptoms can come and go and be aggravated by stress, weather, certain foods and medications.
Western medical treatment commonly involves external application of corticosteroids which when used long term can cause thinning of the skin. Corticosteroids can relieve some of the symptoms but do not eliminate the condition. For internal medication, the drug Methotrexate is prescribed to suppress the immune system but it causes liver disease, anemia and birth defects if the patient is pregnant.
A study conducted at the New York University involving over 60 patients showed very promising results using acupuncture for psoriasis.
The subjects involved in the study had up to 15 acupuncture sessions and after the course of treatment half of the people had almost complete clearance of the skin legions. About 16% had minimal improvement.
In addition, acupuncture has been shown to release natural pain killing endorphins which also trigger anti-inflammatory mechanisms to reduce the redness associated with psoriasis. Acupuncture has long been used to reduce stress and anxiety which are known to trigger psoriasis.
In Traditional Chinese Medical diagnosis, psoriasis can have a number of different causes and these are determined at the consultation when attending the physician. One meridian called the penetrating meridian is selected if the patient is deemed to have a constitutional or genetic factor causing the skin problem. Sometimes the condition is caused by what is known as “hot Blood”. This condition can stem from the liver as it stores the blood. Acupuncture points such as Spleen 10 xue hai, known as sea of blood, can be selected and used with a needling manipulation technique to expel heat in the blood. Chinese herbal medicine is also commonly used in the treatment of psoriasis with the medicinal herb sheng di rehmanniae being an example. Another Chinese herb used to treat psoriasis is honey suckle which is categorised as a clearing heat and neutralising toxin medicine.
Patients who have had their liver damaged by Methotrexate when trying to treat their psoriasis may benefit from acupuncture to help restore liver function and treat their skin at the same time.