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Psoriasis and …Ichthyotherapy?…. What the hell is that.

27 Jul

Psoriasis probably affects someone you know. About 2-3 percent of the worlds population and 2.2 percent of the US population have the skin disorder known as psoriasis. It is the most prevalent autoimmune disorder, and while there are systemic organ failures (especially kidney) for the truly severe cases, here we are talking about the skin lesions rather that arthritic psoriasis (a topic for another discussion).

Anyone who has this disorder knows it’s far from life threatening, but aesthetically it is quite the challenge. People with Psoriasis experience itching and hyperkeratinization of the skin leading to a constant proliferation of skin cells that become flaky and scaly. Psoriasis usually happens in patches on the elbow, arms, scalp, and shins. In moderate to severe cases it can cover the whole of the back, face, and/or legs. Etiology for autoimmune diseases in general is not well understood, and therefore most doctors can’t really tell you why some people get psoriasis and some people don’t, but it is clear that it has some genetic predisposition yet factors, such as food intake, allergic reactions, stress, etc. can cause those hereditary traits to express themselves (70% of identical twins share psoriasis while only 20% of fraternal twins share the condition).

First off, the normal treatments you’ve heard of. Corticosteroid topical creams, steroid injections, pills up the wazoo, is the norm for medical care. Dermatologists may be more specialized and knowledgeable but will offer treatments similar to your family physician. However, there are some alternative treatments may be of some comfort.

UltravViolet light in the form of UVb treatments can be helpful. Sunlight creates Vit amin D in your skin, and this “phototherapy” cancels out all the harmful spectrum that is in normal sunlight. Think of it like a tanning booth that takes away all the wavelengths associated with skin darkening. Phototherapy is becoming very much the norm when it comes to alternative treatments for Psoriasis. They even have home therapy units now, but at $500 for a cheap model they aren’t cheap.

So what the hell is icthyotherapy? Well, pray tell, it is an ancient form of skin therapy utilized by the ancient mesopotamians. Today several southeast asian countries utilize this type of therapy. Imagine if you will getting into your normal day spa jacuzzi, with no bubbles and hundreds of teethless, pinky sized fish nibbling at your flaky plaques and dead skin. Yes Ichthyotherapy means fish nibbling at your body. The fish they use is called Garra ruffa and they grow readily in the Euphrates River. After submerging the body part affected in the water, hundreds of these tiny fish begin to nibble away at the psoriatic plaques. Interesting therapy, and effective, but the patient will need to return to the spa once every so often for maintenance. Also the sloughing off of the dead skin cells can allow for better results from UV light treatments.

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