Psoriasis is a skin condition where skin cells abnormally build up on the surface of the skin, forming thick, silvery-white layers of skin, called scales, and dry red spots that may be itchy or painful. Psoriasis actually alters the life cycle of one's skin cells, causing them to accumulate on the surface significantly faster than normal. This occurs when one's immune system confuses a skin cell to be a pathogen, triggering the overcompensating production of additional skin cells. Psoriasis is a common, chronic condition, which means that it is life-long. There is currently no cure for psoriasis, and the aim of treatment is to reduce or regulate the abnormal growth of skin cells. Psoriasis is not contagious.

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Psoriasis Symptoms

Psoriasis is a skin condition that may vary in severity, and lesions will manifest differently from person to person. Depending on the severity and which areas are affected, the different types of psoriasis are plaque, guttate, scalp, inverse, nail, pustular, and erythrodermic.

  • Thick red spots of skin with silvery-white top layers or scales
  • Dry, cracked skin
  • Itching or burning skin
  • Nails are thick, pitted, ridged, or crumbling or falling off

Types of Psoriasis

  • Plaque psoriasis: The most common kind, plaque psoriasis is characterized by thick, red patches of skin called plaques, and silvery-white scales. Plaques are typically dry and itchy, and in some cases may be painful. Plaques can occur on any area of the body.
  • Guttate psoriasis: Characterized by numerous, small red patches with a thin layer of scale, guttate psoriasis can occur on your torso, limbs, and scalp. Guttate psoriasis typically affects children, as it is often brought on by bacterial infections.
  • Scalp psoriasis: Marked by itchy red spots and silvery scales on the scalp, and possibly the forehead and neck as well.
  • Inverse psoriasis:Inverse psoriasis affects folds in the skin, such as in armpits, the groin, and beneath the breasts. It manifests in patches red skin, but unlike with other types of psoriasis, the patches are smooth.
  • Nail psoriasis: Usually causing the nail to form pits or ridges, nail psoriasis affects fingernails and toenails, and may also cause the nail to crumble or loosen from the nail bed.
  • Pustular psoriasis: Marked by the rapid onset of red patches that later blister and fill with pus. Breakouts of pustular psoriasis may develop in mere hours.
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis: A rare form of psoriasis where a large, irritating, and painful rash covers most of the body or the entire surface of the body.

Psoriasis Causes

Definite causes of psoriasis remain unclear, but the condition is typically understood to be a malfunctioning of the immune system, which may be due to genes. Normally, the body's T-cells fight off foreign agents, such as infections. With psoriasis, the body's T-cells confuse normal, healthy skin cells with viruses or bacteria, and attack them as well. This results in the overproduction of new skin cells before the old cells can fall off, throwing the entire cycle of skin regeneration off balance. Psoriasis might be hereditary, and there are a number of risk factors that may contribute to the presence of psoriasis.

Risk Factors for Psoriasis

  • History of psoriasis in the family
  • Viral, bacterial, or fungal infections
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

Psoriasis Diagnosis

Typically, a doctor can diagnose a skin condition as psoriasis simply by looking at it. More rarely a biopsy might be necessary, in which a piece of skin is cut away and examined more closely. Psoriasis can often be confused for other skin conditions, including ringworm and certain forms of dermatitis.

Psoriasis Treatment

Psoriasis is not curable, though various forms of treatment are available to reduce and alleviate symptoms. Once diagnosed, your doctor will likely refer you to a dermatologist, who will be able to recommend the best form of treatment. Treatment may vary from topical treatment, to light therapy, to other types of medication. The goal of psoriasis treatment is to both slow down the abnormal growth of skin cells, as well as reduce inflammation, dryness, and itching, and smoothen skin.

Topical Treatment

  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Vitamin D analogues
  • Topical retinoids
  • Coal tar
  • Salicylic acid
  • Moisturizers

Light Therapy

  • Ultraviolet light has been shown to improve the symptoms of psoriasis. Under supervised conditions, light therapy exposes the skin to either natural or artificial ultraviolet light.

Medication (Oral or Injected)

Main Psoriasis Drugs

Enbrel Remicade Humira

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