What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes red, itchy, scaly patches to appear most often on the knees, elbows, torso, and scalp.
Psoriasis is a common long-term (chronic) disease with no treatment. They tend to go through cycles, flaring up for a few weeks or months, then subside for a while or go into remission. Treatments are available to help you manage symptoms. And you can combine lifestyle habits and coping strategies to help you live better with psoriasis.
Causes of psoriasis
Psoriasis is thought to be an immune system problem that causes the skin to regenerate at a faster than normal rate. In the most common type of psoriasis, known as plaque psoriasis, this rapid transformation of cells results in scales and red patches.
It’s not entirely clear what causes the immune system to malfunction. Researchers believe that genetic and environmental factors play a role. The condition is not contagious.
Symptoms of Psoriasis
Psoriasis symptoms vary depending on the type you have. Some common symptoms of plaque psoriasis – the most common type of the condition – include:
- Plaques of red skin, often covered with silvery scales. These plaques may be itchy and painful, and sometimes they may crack and bleed. In severe cases, the plaques grow, merge, and cover large areas.
- Disorders of the fingernails and toenails, including discolouration and pitting of the nails. The nails may also crumble or detach from the nail bed.
- Plaques of crusts or dandruff on the scalp.
People with psoriasis can also develop a type of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis. It causes pain and swelling in the joints. The National Psoriasis Foundation estimates that between 10% to 30% of people with psoriasis also have psoriatic arthritis.
Two tests may be necessary to diagnose psoriasis.
Most doctors can make a diagnosis with a simple physical exam. Psoriasis symptoms are usually clear and easy to distinguish from other conditions that may cause similar symptoms.
During this test, be sure to show your doctor all areas of concern. Additionally, tell your doctor if any family members have this condition.
If symptoms are not clear or if your doctor wants to confirm a suspected diagnosis, he may take a small skin sample. This is known as a biopsy.
The skin will be sent to a laboratory, where it will be examined under a microscope. The test can diagnose the type of psoriasis you have. It can also rule out other potential disorders or infections.
Most biopsies are done in your doctor’s office on the day of your appointment. Your doctor will likely inject a local numbing medication to make the biopsy less painful. Then they send the biopsy to a lab for analysis.
When results return, your doctor may request an appointment to discuss the results and treatment options with you.
Other health problems may occur as a result of psoriasis. While some people think it is a skin disease, psoriasis can also affect the bones, muscles, and metabolism system.
Up to 30% of people with psoriasis have arthritis accompanied by symptoms of joint inflammation, known as psoriatic arthritis.
This type of psoriasis causes inflammation and progressive damage to the joints. It most commonly occurs when people are between the ages of 30 and 50.
People with psoriasis may experience social exclusion, image problems, and low self-esteem. Besides the physical discomfort, itching, and pain of psoriasis, this can affect their overall quality of life.
The social and physical requirements of this chronic disease may contribute to depression and anxiety. People with this disease are twice as likely to develop depression as those without the condition.
It may also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and some types of cancer, including head and neck cancer and gastrointestinal tumours.
Psoriasis Risk factors
Certain factors increase a person’s risk of developing.
These factors include:
- Incidence of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome
- Skin injury
- A family history of the condition
About 1 in 3 people with a close relative who has this disease will also develop this condition. If a parent has psoriasis, there is a 10% chance that their child will continue to have the disease. This risk increases to 50% if both parents have this disease.
This association in families indicates an underlying genetic component. However, disease symptoms may not appear unless an environmental factor activates it. As many as 10% of the population may have the gene that causes psoriasis, but only 2-3% of people will develop it.
Among young adults, it may flare up after an infection, particularly strep throat. Symptoms will become noticeable 2-6 weeks after ear pain or respiratory infection in 33-50% of young adults with this disease. Common respiratory infections include sore throats, bronchitis, and tonsillitis.
It is equally common in males and females. It can start at any age but is most common between the ages of 15 and 35. The average time onset of the disease is 28 years.
About 10-15% of people with this disease develop the condition before they reach the age of 10.
There is no way to prevent psoriasis, but there are things you can do to improve symptoms and help reduce the number of outbreaks you have.
There are some ways to reduce the risk of this disease attack:
- Take daily baths
- Keeps skin hydrated
- Avoid triggers if you can
- Get a small amount of sunlight every day