Psoriasis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Psoriasis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Psoriasis is a common and chronic skin disorder. Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis by red skin covered with silvery scales and inflammation. Patches of circular to oval-shaped red plaques that itch or burn are typical of plaque psoriasis. The patches are usually found on the arms, legs, trunk, or scalp but may be found on any part of the skin. The most typical areas on the body are the knees and elbows.

Psoriasis begins in the immune system, mainly with a type of white blood cell called a T cell. T cells help protect the body against infection and disease. With psoriasis, T cells are put into action by mistake. They become so active that they set off other immune responses. This leads to swelling and fast turnover of skin cells. People with psoriasis may notice that sometimes the skin gets better and sometimes it gets worse. Things that can cause the skin to get worse include:

  • Infections
  • Stress
  • Changes in weather that dry the skin
  • Certain medicines.
  • Symptoms of psoriasis include constant shedding of dead cells. However, due to the acceleration of the replacement process, both dead and live cells accumulate on the skin surface. Often this causes red, flaky, crusty patches covered with silvery scales, which are shed easily. Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body although it is most commonly found on the elbows, knees, lower back and the scalp. It can also cause intense itching and burning.

    While psoriasis can occur at any age, it can begin between the ages of 20 and 40 in most cases. All races can be affected, but the disorder is less common in African-Americans. Other factors associated with risk follow:

  • Genetics: There is a clear genetic predisposition. Nearly half of psoriasis patients have an affected first-degree relative.
  • Medication: Medications known to exacerbate symptoms include lithium, malaria antibiotics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., ibuprofen).
  • Steroid therapy withdrawal: Abrupt ending of steroid therapy (e.g., prednisone) can result in the sudden worsening of psoriasis.
  • Infection: People with HIV and children with recurring infections, particularly streptococcal pharyngitis (“strep throat”), are at increased risk.
  • Stress: Emotional and physiologic stress (trauma) has been linked to exacerbations, which may occur up to a month after the stressful event.
  • Obesity: See Nutritional Considerations.
  • Climate: Moderate amounts of sunlight can improve psoriasis. However, excessive sun exposure can trigger or exacerbate the disease.
  • Alcohol intake and tobacco use are also important risk factors.
  • While it can sometimes be frustrating trying to find the right treatment for psoriasis, and some can take a number of weeks before visible improvement, there is a wide range of treatments available. Treatments range from topical creams and shampoos, through to Ultra-Violet (UV) light therapy, systemic tablets and biologic injections. However, psoriasis tends to be very unique to the individual, and a treatment that works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Because of this, treating psoriasis can be a process of trial and error, and it can be frustrating.

    There may be times when coping with psoriasis is difficult, and when it can be hard to be motivated to use any treatment at all. However, above everything else, it’s important that you regularly see your doctor to review your condition, and be honest about your treatment. It’s the best way of making sure you get to try as many treatments as possible, and find one that makes a difference to you.

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