What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes skin to flake off leading to skin redness and irritation. Most people with psoriasis have thick, reddened skin with flaky, silvery patches called scales.
What are the causes of Psoriasis?
The exact causative factor is unknown. However, it has been found that it may have an autoimmune cause (the body’s defence cells start attacking the body’s own skin cells). It may affect people of any age, but it is most commonly seen between ages 15 and 35. The condition is not communicable. Psoriasis also seems to have a hereditary predilection.
In healthy skin, cells grow deep and normally rise to the surface about once a month. In persons with psoriasis, this process is fast (two weeks instead of four). This leads to dead skin cells building up on the skin’s surface.
What are the triggers for Psoriasis?
Anything that compromises the body’s immunity can trigger Psoriasis:
- Bacterial or viral infections
- Dry skin, especially in winters
- Injury to the skin – cuts, insect bites and burns
- Medicines like antimalarial drugs, beta-blockers, lithium.
- Smoking, alcohol
- Too little or too much exposure to sun
- Systemic conditions like AIDS and other autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Chemotherapy for cancer
What are the symptoms of Psoriasis?
The skin patches may be dry and itchy, covered with silvery scales. They may look raw (pink-red) with raised and thick areas. If nails are affected, they appear thickened, brownish yellow with pits on the surface. In severe cases, the nail may separate from its base.
If it affects the scalp, it may manifest as lot of dandruff.
It joints are affected; it may lead to joint pain (Psoriatic Arthritis).
Sometimes, it may also manifest as genital sores in males.
What are the types of Psoriasis?
- Erythrodermic: Reddened skin covering large areas.
- Guttate: Small red spots on the skin
- Inverse: This type affects only in skin folds like the armpits, groin, and wherever there is an overlap of skin. The skin becomes red and irritable.
- Plaque – Reddened skin patches are covered by flaky, silver-white scales. This is the most common type.
- Pustular – Apart from the reddened skin, white blisters filled with pus are seen.
The condition of the skin is one of the main diagnosing factor for Psoriasis. The doctor may ask for a skin biopsy to be done in order to rule out other possible conditions. If your joints are affected, then x-rays may be required. Certain blood tests may be done to check the autoimmune status of the individual.
Since Psoriasis cannot be cured, the goal of all treatment modalities is to control symptoms…read more about the various treatments available.