What is Psoriasis? Causes, Symptoms, Types and Treatments

What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic (long-lasting) autoimmune condition that causes the rapid build-up of skin cells. This build-up of cells causes scaling on the skin’s surface -- makes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales. These patches normally appear on your elbows, knees, scalp and lower back, but can appear anywhere on your body. Most people are only affected with small patches. In some cases, the patches can be itchy or sore.

Psoriasis actually starts underneath the skin. It may be associated with other health conditions such as psoriatic arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Some 7.5 million Americans suffer from psoriasis, and it affects around 2% of people in the UK.  Even famous people and celebrities like Kim Kadarshian, Dara Torres, LeAnn Rimes, and Eli Roth also suffer from this skin condition.

The severity of psoriasis varies greatly from person to person. For some people it's just a minor irritation, but for others it can have a major impact on their quality of life.

What Causes Psoriasis?
The exact cause of psoriasis isn’t fully understood, but scientists believe psoriasis is the result of several factors, including genetics, environmental factors, and the immune system.

Genetics: Some people inherit genes that make them more likely to develop psoriasis. If you have an immediate family member with the skin condition, your risk for developing psoriasis is higher. Researchers say that up to 10% of the general population may inherit one or more genes that predispose them to psoriasis, though only 2% to 3% of people with the gene actually develop the disease.

Environmental factors: Certain environmental factors like stress, injury to skin, infection, and medications may trigger the psoriasis genes, causing the disease to become active.

Immune system: Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition. Your immune system is meant to protect you when an “intruder,” like a cold virus, enters your body. But sometimes it mistakes your body’s healthy cells for intruders and attacks them. In the case of psoriasis, white blood cells known as T cells attack the skin cells mistakenly.

What Are the Symptoms?
 The most common symptoms of plaque psoriasis include:

  • red, raised, inflamed patches of skin
  • silver-white scales or plaques on the red patches
  • dry skin that may crack and bleed
  • soreness around patches
  • itching and burning sensations around patches
  • thick, pitted nails
  • painful, swollen joints

Not every person will experience all of these symptoms. Some people will experience entirely different symptoms if they have a less common type of psoriasis.

What Are the Types?
There’re 5 major types of Psoriasis:

Plaque psoriasis: This is the most common type of psoriasis – about 80% of people with the condition have plaque psoriasis. It causes red, inflamed patches that cover areas of the skin. These patches are often covered with whitish-silver scales or plaques. These plaques are commonly found on the elbows, knees, and scalp.

Guttate psoriasis: Guttate psoriasis is common in childhood. This type of psoriasis causes small pink spots. The most common sites for guttate psoriasis include the torso, arms, and legs. These spots are rarely thick or raised like plaque psoriasis.

Inverse psoriasis:  This type shows up as areas that are bright red, smooth, and shiny, but don't have scales. It's usually found in armpits, groin, under the breasts, skin folds around the genitals and buttocks. Inverse psoriasis may worsen with sweating and rubbing. A buildup of yeast may trigger it.

Pustular psoriasis: Pustular psoriasis is more common in adults. It causes white, pus-filled blisters and broad areas of red, inflamed skin. Pustular psoriasis is typically localized to smaller areas of the body, such as the hands or feet, but it can be widespread.

Erythrodermic psoriasis: This type is the least common, but it's very serious. It affects most of your body and causes widespread, fiery skin that appears burned. You might also run a fever or become very ill.

What Are the Treatments?
Psoriasis has no cure. But fortunately, medication and lifestyle can control even the most serious cases. Treatments aim to reduce inflammation and scales, slow the growth of skin cells, and remove plaques. Lifestyle changes may help ease symptoms of psoriasis and reduce flares. Try to lose weight, eat healthy, avoid trigger foods, drink less alcohol, and consider taking vitamin.

Psoriasis isn’t contagious. You can’t pass the skin condition from one person to another. Touching a psoriatic lesion on another person won’t cause you to develop the condition.
photo: medscape.com

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