Treating Psoriasis with Holistic Medicine
As with most, if not all medical complains that our patients bring to us, it is not enough for the OM practitioner to simply name the disease; we must also be able to identify the underlying pattern. This paper discusses the various patterns commonly seen with patients suffering from psoriatic conditions.
Psoriasis is a common, persistent, chronic and recurrent skin disease with dry, well-circumscribed silvery, scaling papules and plaques of different sizes. Thirty percent of psoriasis patients experience itching.
In Chinese medicine it is referred to as “silver scale disease” (yin xie bing). It has also been known as “white dagger sore” (bai bi),“pine skin tinea” (song pi xuan), “snake lice” (she shi),as well as other names.
Psoriasis affects approximately 2-4% of the white population (fewer blacks and Asians are affected; American Indians and Fijians do not seem to experience psoriasis).
It occurs more frequently in colder climates and rarely in warmer regions. The onset or “aggravation” is more frequent in the winter, with decreasing frequency in the spring and fall; the lowest occurrence is during the summer months. Most patients experience the onset before age 20, although statistically the onset appears between ages 10-40. Psoriasis is not contagious, but there seems to be a genetic tendency: 30% of psoriasis patients have a positive family history.
Psoriasis can spread rapidly. The normal transit time of the epidermis is 28 days, but in psoriasis cases, this transit time can shorten to as little as 3-4 days. The presentation can vary from 1-2 lesions to a severe outbreak covering much of the body, accompanied by arthritis and the rapid scaling off of dead tissue. The lesions will heal without scaring and do not affect hair growth. Onset is gradual. The course of disease is marked by remissions and exacerbations of varying acuity. When there is itching of the scales with pinpoint bleeding, this is known as “Auspitz sign”. There may be pustules along with inflammation; but they are sterile and do not represent infection”.
Psoriasis may occur over the entire body, but there are some body parts where psoriasis is more likely to appear. The more susceptible areas are the buttocks and sacrum, hairline of the scalp and the extensor surfaces of the limbs, particularly the knees, elbows and wrists. Less frequently the eyebrows, axillae, umbilicus and anogenital regions will be affected. Half of patients will have nail involvement.
Factors that can trigger a psoriatic eruption include:
- Trauma to an area, known as the “Koebnerphenomenon”,
- Bad sunburns, irritation
- Topical medications
- Acute upper respiratory infections, especially in children
- Emotional or psychological stress.
In Oriental Medicine psoriasis is considered to be caused by a deficiency of ying qiand blood, a condition that stirs up wind, but also dryness that interferes with the skin’s ability to receive nourishment. There will be a disharmony between yjngand the wei that permits invasion by wind-cold or wind-heat. This will cause a disruption in the circulation of qi and blood and allow the pathogenic influences to become trapped in the tissue. In some cases psoriasis may be caused by smoldering damp heat. Wind-heat and wind-cold or damp-heat will transform into heat and consume and injure the qi and blood. Conditions such as blood deficiency and wind-dryness or blood-dryness may aggravate the condition. Psoriasis is generated from the inside and manifests on the outside, so accordingly, the treatment must focus on the internal. The pattern of disharmony must be addressed.
The liver and kidney systems are the most affected as the disease progresses. This leads to a disharmony of the chongand renchannels, which in turn will contribute to even more serious insufficiencies at the yingand blood levels.
The successful treatment of psoriasis necessitates careful differentiation of the possible patterns. At Amita Holistic Center we use successfully a combination of Acupuncture, Micro-current and Low laser therapy.