Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition characterized by red, scaly, itchy patches of skin. More than 8 million Americans are affected by psoriasis. Psoriasis is developed equally by men and women, and occurs in all racial groups. It’s common for psoriasis to develop between age 15-35, however any age can get, on a rare occasion even infants!
August is psoriasis awareness month; the goal is to educate those who are unfamiliar with this common disease.
What causes psoriasis?
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown. What is known is that the immune system along with genetics play a role. The scaly red patches that can be itchy and even painful occur because the life cycle of skin cells is sped up and grow at an abnormally fast rate, which leads to a buildup of dead skin cells on the skins surface. Psoriasis can range from small dandruff- like patches to much larger patches. It can flare up for weeks or months at a time, and then subside or go into remission.
Red patches with thick silvery scales
Dry cracked skin, may lead to bleeding
Thickened, pitted or ridged nails
Swollen or stiff joints
Are there different types of psoriasis?
Yes! There are 5 different types of psoriasis.
Plaque psoriasis- the most common form. Consists of red patches with silvery buildup of dead skin cells that tend to be itchy and painful. Often shows up on scalp, knees, elbows, and low back.
Guttate- the second most common type. This form appears as small dot- like lesions. It can be triggered by a strep infection and often starts in childhood or early adulthood.
Inverse- with this form, many people have another type of psoriasis somewhere else on the body. Inverse shows up on body folds (behind the knee, under the arm, or in the groin region) as smooth, shiny, red lesions.
Pustular- can occur on any part of the body, but most often it’s on the hands or feet. Pustular consists of white pustules surrounded by red skin. The pus consists of white blood cells and is not contagious.
Erythrodermic- is a rare form only occurring in 3% of people. It’s widespread fiery redness that covers most of the body. It causes itching, pain, and the skin comes off in sheets. Erythrodermic flares can be life threatening and patients having a flare should see a doctor immediately.
1 in 3 people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis which affects joints, tendons, and ligaments.
What treatment options are available?
It’s important to work with your physician and set goals for managing your psoriasis effectively to reduce your risk for comorbidities and improve your overall health. There are different forms of treatment:
► Biologics- made from living sources (human, animal, or bacteria cells), they are given as an injection or IV infusion. They work to lower the overactive immune system and decrease inflammation.
► Oral treatments- some target specific cells of the immune system, others may target the immune system as a whole.
► Phototherapy- using UV light to treat.
► Topical treatments- creams, lotion, ointments, or shampoos applied directly to the skin.
► Other treatments: natural products, mind and body practices, pain management, diet and lifestyle changes.