Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that results in persistent inflammation. Cases can range from very mild to very severe. Psoriasis is not contagious, but it does have a tendency to run in families.
Causes of Psoriasis
Exact cause is unknown, but people believe that the immune system is a key factor. T-cells are a type of white blood cell that can trigger inflammation and cause the skin to grow rapidly (among other things). Sometimes, the immune system can activate T-cells and speed up the process of skin replacing itself from about 30 days to 3-4 days.
Psoriasis is flared by “triggers”, and those triggers must always be present. Common triggers are stress, infection, certain medications, cold winter months, lack of sunlight. Some people can have flares of psoriasis shortly after sustaining an injury to the skin.
Types of Psoriasis
- Most common type
- Appears as patches of raised, reddish skin covered by silvery white scales
- Common on the elbows, knees, lower back and scalp
- Can occur anywhere on the skin
- Appears as small, red spots
- Typically in children and young adults
- Often starts after sore throat
- Can clear up on its own within a few weeks or months
- White pustules surrounded by red skin
- Tends to be confined to certain areas of the body, usually palms and soles
- This can be widespread – “Generalized Pustular Psoriasis” – rare and can be life threatening
- Smooth, red lesions in skin folds
- Common areas are in the armpit, under the breasts and around the groin, buttocks and genitals
- Widespread redness with severe itching and pain
- Can be life threatening
Psoriasis can develop on the scalp and in the nails. When on the scalp, it can have a scaly, silvery appearance and be misdiagnosed as dandruff. At times, nail infections are diagnosed rather than psoriasis in the nails.
Some people with psoriasis will develop arthritis as well. This causes inflammation of the joints. This is a lifelong condition that causes stiffness and deterioration of the joints. If caught and treated early, some medications can prevent joint deformities. Without treatment, permanent joint destruction is possible.
Psoriasis is diagnosed via skin examination. A biopsy is sometimes necessary for confirmation.
Treatment of Psoriasis
Many factors determine which type of treatment is best for psoriasis. There is no cure for psoriasis. Different types and combinations of treatments may be necessary to control your psoriasis.
Topical Corticosteroids – medication to reduce inflammation. This temporarily controls the condition. Steroids should be used with caution, however, as they can cause thinning of the skin, dilated blood vessels, bruising, stretch marks, and skin color changes. Difficult spots can be treated with injections of steroids.
Light Therapy – Ultraviolet light slows the rapid growth of skin cells and is a safe treatment u