The Facts About Psoriasis
What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a medical condition that impacts around three percent of people in the United States. There are over five million men and women with psoriasis across the nation. Psoriasis is characterized by inflammation and scaling of the skin, and is mainly seen in adult patients, though psoriasis can also become an issue during childhood and adolescence. There is no gender divide with this condition, as both women and men are equally likely to experience the condition.
How Does Psoriasis Impact Skin Health?
The mechanism which causes scaling and inflammation is that new skin cells, which normally mature beneath the skin and rise to the surface, move to the surface before they have sufficiently developed. It normally takes a newborn skin cell around thirty days to reach the top layer of the skin, but in the case of Psoriasis, this process of turnover can take place in just a matter of days.
What Are the Symptoms of Psoriasis?
In the most common form of the condition, Psoriasis leads to high levels of inflammation, and the skin becomes red and topped with scales. The areas where scaling develops are called plaques, and they can lead to soreness and severe itching. Common areas where Psoriasis appears on the body are the soles of the feet, palms, face, lower back, scalp, knees, and elbows, although these patches can appear anywhere on the body.
Other areas where Psoriasis can appear are inside the mouth, on the genitals, and underneath the toenails and fingernails. If Psoriasis occurs on the joints, it can lead the inflamed area to become cracked and this can lead to bleeding. The psoriasis can also inflame the joints, which leads to arthritis symptoms. If this occurs, it is referred to as Psoriatic Arthritis.
How Can Psoriasis Negatively Impact Quality of Life?
People that have Psoriasis can experience life-altering issues resulting from the pain and itching associated with Psoriasis. Also, Psoriasis can limit movement in some cases, leading to limited disability.
Some patients experience severe pain and itching, which prevents them from living and appreciating their day to day life, causing sleep to be restless, making bathing a painful chore, and even making walking difficult. Patients that have Psoriasis Plaques on the feet and hands can have issues with any activity that involves those body parts, and they may not be able to participate in some sports or even have jobs in some careers. This can even inhibit their ability to care for their loved ones.
In order to mitigate the symptoms of Psoriasis, it can require frequent trips to the doctor, and the cost to treat the medical disorder is very high, as a result of the chronic nature of the condition. Psoriasis also impacts self-perception, because they are embarrassed about the way they look as a result of their condition. This can lead them to become withdrawn, or make it harder for them to enter romantic relationships. These issues can lead to social isolation, depression, and other psychological issues related to their poor self-image.
What Causes Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a medical condition that results from an overactive immune system, and it is related to the body's production of T-Cells. T-Cells are powerful immune cells which fight disease and infection. When a person has Psoriasis, the body activates T-Cells for no reason and this causes a cascade of immune response which both causes immature skin cells to rise prematurely while also causing high levels of inflammation.
There is a genetic component to Psoriasis, and scientists have been able to link particular genes to the condition, based upon their study of certain family lines which are heavily impacted by the condition. Not all patients with Psoriasis have a family history, however.
What Causes Psoriasis Skin Flare-Ups?
Most people with psoriasis experience periods where their skin health becomes more problematic. These periods are known as flares. Psoriasis will temporarily become much worse, before recovering somewhat. There are a number of issues that can cause these flares to occur, including weather changes that lead to drier skin, stress, and infection.
There are also some medications that can exacerbate Psoriasis, including lithium and blood pressure medications known as Beta-Blockers. Finally, Psoriasis is more likely to flare up in areas of the skin that have experienced damage or irritation from issues such as infection, sunburn, scratches and lesions.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Psoriasis
Sometimes, Psoriasis can be problematic to diagnose, because it shares symptoms with a number of other skin conditions, such as Sebhoerric Dermatitis. The best way to clinically diagnose Psoriasis is by taking a small patch of the inflamed skin and looking at it through a microscope.
What Are the Types of Psoriasis?
There a number of kinds of Psoriasis. Below is a partial list:
Plaque Psoriasis - Characterized by inflamed, red skin covered in shiny scales.
Guttate Psoriasis - Characterized by small, round areas of inflamed skin on the scalp, limbs, and trunk. This form of the disease is commonly a reaction to strep throat or other infections of the upper respiratory system.
Pustular Psoriasis - Characterized by the formation of blisters which are not the result of infection. These blisters are filled with puss, and can be caused by stress, infections, medicines, and contact with particular chemicals.
Inverse Psoriasis - Characterized by inflamed areas along skin folds, such as the armpits, beneath the breasts, or around the genitals. Sweating and friction can exacerbate this form of Psoriasis.
Erythrodermic Psoriasis - Rapid and widespread appearance of Psoriasis that is commonly caused by corticosteroid medicines or significant sunburn. This form of Psoriasis can also occur as an extension of other forms of Psoriasis which are not effectively controlled. This is the most severe form of the condition, and requires an immediate visit to a medical professional.
What is Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic Arthritis is a medical condition that is related to and caused by Psoriasis, itself. In this case, Psoriasis penetrates into the skin and causes lesions and inflammation of the joints. Patients can experience both forms of Psoriasis simultaneously, or either alone at any particular time.
How Can Psoriasis Be Effectively Treated?
There are a number of methods that physicians use to mitigate the symptoms of Psoriasis, dependent upon the specific characteristics of the disease, including the locations of inflammation, the form of psoriasis, the surface area of inflammation, the severity of the psoriasis, and the way that the patient has responded to previous treatment.
The following are some common means by which Psoriasis can be treated:
Like any medication, the treatments listed above can lead to side-effects, some minor, some more significant. Always talk to your physician and pharmacist about potential side-effects so you can be armed with the knowledge to recognize them.
There are some issues that make Psoriasis hard to treat. For one, the body can develop a resistance to certain forms of treatment, limiting their effectiveness over time. This is especially true of corticosteroids delivered topically.
Second, every patient responds differently to treatment, and the same medication or therapy may be highly effective for one patient while producing no benefit in a second patient. As a result of this, physicians often switch from therapy to therapy until they find one that works effectively with few or no side effects.