Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune condition which affects the skin. This relatively common condition causes skin cells to multiply at a higher rate than normal. Because skin cells are produced more quickly than they are shed, this results in the buildup of dry, scaly, itchy patches on the surface of the skin. There are multiple varieties of psoriasis, with plaque psoriasis being the most common.
An autoimmune condition, psoriasis occurs when the immune system attacks skin cells, causing skin cell production to increase to an unnecessarily rapid rate. The precise causes of this condition are not fully understood, although genetic and environmental risk factors may come into play
Plaque psoriasis is often marked by raised patches of dry, red skin, studded with scaly, silvery plaques. You may have itching or burning sensations from affected areas, and there may be cracking and bleeding from dry skin. Less common types of psoriasis include:
Additional issues include nail psoriasis, in which psoriasis affects the fingernails or toenails, and psoriatic arthritis, in which psoriasis causes pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints.
There is a genetic factor which may make you more susceptible to psoriasis, meaning that you are more likely to develop the condition if another member of your family has had it. It also most commonly appears in adults between the ages of 30 and 50. Other factors which may affect the appearance or severity of psoriasis include stress, injury or infection of the skin, strep throat, smoking, alcohol overconsumption, and some medications such as lithium, prednisone, and hydroxychloroquine.
Psoriasis can usually be diagnosed rather easily through a physical examination of the skin. Make sure that your doctor is aware of any skin changes or other symptoms you have experienced. In some cases, a biopsy may be performed if physical symptoms are inconclusive or if your doctor needs to confirm their diagnosis.
Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as exercise regimens, modifications to diet, quitting smoking, or reducing alcohol intake. Creams and ointments such as topical corticosteroids or immuno-modulators may be applied to the affected areas to reduce symptoms. Moderate to severe psoriasis may be treated through systemic medications such as immuno-modulators or biologics. Phototherapy, a treatment that uses ultraviolet light, may also help to reduce the growth of cells and alleviate symptoms.
There are a number of steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing psoriasis. These include quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, managing stress, avoiding tattoos (getting tattooed causes injury to the skin), avoiding dry, cold climates, and eating a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet.
If left untreated, psoriasis can cause the development of psoriatic arthritis, causing joint pain, stiffness, and loss of function. Psoriasis has also been linked to some cancers, and skin which cracks or sheds in large patches also increases your risk of infection and other complications.
Some of the most common comorbidities with psoriasis include psoriatic arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and metabolic syndrome.