Psoriasis is a common chronic relapsing skin disease. It is characterized by erythematous scaly lesion and serious itching red on the extensor surfaces of the body, such as elbows, and scalp.

Psoriasis affects about 2% of people in the UK. In some patients, symptoms are mild, while in others they can cause physical, social and psychological disability. The cause of psoriasis is not known, but there is a genetic component, with around 30% of people having a family history of the disease. Also, emotional stress, physical trauma, acute infection, and some drugs can provoke or exacerbate the condition.

Conventional treatments include topical treatments such as vitamin D and vitamin A derivatives, dithranol cream, coal tar preparations, topical corticosteroids, psoralen and ultraviolet light therapy (PUVA), and systemic treatments such as methotrexate, ciclosporin, acitretin and biologics. The current conventional therapy cannot offer satisfactory clinical results for most of the patients, largely due to the fact that many anti-psoriatic drugs have serious side effects and psoriasis is prone to developing drug resistance after long term exposure.

Psoriasis is known to people for thousands of years. The practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine describe psoriasis some 1600 years ago with the name of “Silvery scales disease” as very often the skin plaques are coating with silvery scales. The precise etiology and pathogenesis of psoriasis are not known although there are many hypotheses.

Chinese medicine and acupuncture may help to relieve symptoms of  psoriasis in many ways such as reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors; regulating mediators of the allergic reaction to extrinsic allergens, enhancing natural killer cell activities and modulating the number and ratio of immune cell types; increasing local micro-circulation, which aids dispersal of swelling, etc.

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References:

Kavoussi, B. and Ross, BE.(2007). The neuroimmune basis of anti-inflammatory acupuncture. Integr Cancer Ther 6:251-57.

Koo, J. and Arain, S. (1998). Traditional Chinese Medicine for the treatment of dermatologic disorders, Arch Dermatol. 134(11):1388-93.

Tsea, WP. et al.(2006). Evaluation of the anti-proliferative properties of selected psoriasis-treating Chinese medicines on cultured HaCaT cells. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 108; 133-141