Psoriasis (sore-EYE-ah-sis) is a chronic skin disease where the condition of the skin is red and irritated. It develops when a person’s immune system sends faulty signals that tell skin cells to grow too quickly. New skin cells form in days rather than weeks. The body does not shed these excess skin cells. The skin cells pile up on the surface of the skin. Most people with psoriasis have thick, red skin with flaky, silver-white patches called scales.
What causes psoriasis?
Scientists are still trying to learn everything that happens inside the body to cause psoriasis. We know that psoriasis is not contagious. You cannot get psoriasis from touching someone who has psoriasis. You cannot get psoriasis from swimming in the same pool or having sex. Scientists have learned that a person’s immune system and genes play important roles.
It seems that many genes must interact to cause psoriasis. Scientists also know that not everyone who inherits the genes for psoriasis will get it. It seems that a person must inherit the “right” mix of genes. Then the person must be exposed to a trigger.
The following may trigger an attack of psoriasis or make the condition more difficult to treat:
- Bacteria or viral infections, including strep throat and upper respiratory infections
- Dry air or dry skin
- Injury to the skin, including cuts, burns, and insect bites
- Some medicines, including antimalaria drugs, beta-blockers, and lithium.
- Too little sunlight
- Too much sunlight (sunburn)
- Too much alcohol
In general, psoriasis may be severe in people who have a weakened immune system. This may include persons who have:
- Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Cancer chemotherapy
Some people with psoriasis may also have arthritis, a condition known as psoriatic arthritis.
Usually, skin cells grow deep in the skin and rise to the surface about once a month. In persons with psoriasis, this process is too fast. Dead skin cells build up on the skin’s surface. Psoriasis can appear suddenly or slowly. Many times it goes away and then comes back again and again.
- Irritated, red, flaky patches of skin
- Most often seen on the elbows, knees, and middle of the body
- Red patches may appear anywhere on the body, including the scalp
The skin may be:
- Dry and covered with silver, flaky skin (scales)
- Pink-red in color (like the color of salmon)
- Raised and thick
Other symptoms may include:
- Genital lesions in males
- Joint pain or aching
- Nail Changes including thick nails, yellow-brown nails, dents in the nail, and nail lifts off from the skin underneath
- Severe dandruff on the scalp
Types of psoriasis
There are five main types of psoriasis, the most popular being Plaque Psoriasis. Others include:
Erythrodermic — The skin redness is very intense and covers a large area.
Guttate — Small, pink-red spots appearon the skin. Common with children.
Inverse — Skin redness and irritation occurs in the armpits, groin, and in between overlapping skin. Also common with children.
Plaque — Thick, red patches of skin are covered by flaky, silver-white scales. This is the most common type of psoriasis.
Pustular — White blisters are surrounded by red, irritated skin.
Who gets psoriasis?
People who get psoriasis usually have one or more person in their family who has psoriasis. Not everyone who has a family member with psoriasis will get psoriasis. But psoriasis is common. In the United States, about 7.5 million people have psoriasis. Most people, about 80%, have plaque psoriasis.
Psoriasis can begin at any age. Most people get psoriasis between 15 and 30 years of age. By age 40, most people who will get psoriasis, about 75%, have psoriasis. Another common time for psoriasis to begin is between 50 and 60 years of age. Caucasion individuals get psoriasis more often than other races. Infants and young children are more likely to get inverse psoriasis and guttate psoriasis.
Tips for Managing
- Oatmeal baths may be soothing and may help to loosen scales. You can use over-the-counter oatmeal bath products. Or, you can mix 1 cup of oatmeal into a tub of warm water.
- Sunlight may help your symptoms go away. Be careful not to get sunburned.
- Relaxation and antistress techniques may be helpful. The link between stress and flares of psoriasis is not well understood.
- Take a probiotic – great for inflammation in the body – In fact, probiotic supplements containing beneficial bacteria are often suggested for a variety of conditions, such as colitis, acne, eczema and psoriasis! Consuming bifidobacteria regularly for just 30 days is clinically proven to improve digestive health to.
- Take Omega 3 and flax seed oil and a multivitamin daily.
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