Psoriasis is a medical condition that occurs when skin cells grow too quickly. Faulty signals in the immune system cause new skin cells to form in days rather than weeks. The body does not shed these excess skin cells, so the cells pile up on the surface of the skin and lesions form.
The lesions vary in appearance with the type of psoriasis. There are five types of psoriasis: Plaque, guttate, pustular, inverse, and erythrodermic. About 80% of people living with psoriasis have plaque psoriasis, also called “psoriasis vulgaris.” Plaque psoriasis causes patches of thick, scaly skin that may be white, silvery, or red. Called plaques, these patches can develop anywhere on the skin. The most common areas to find plaques are the elbows, knees, lower back, and scalp.
Psoriasis can affect the nails. About 50% of people who develop psoriasis see changes in their fingernails and/or toenails.
Psoriasis can affect the joints too. Smaller joints of the hand and joints of the knee and lower back can also get involved. If joint pain develops then it is important to see a dermatologists as early treatment can prevent joint deterioration .
Psoriasis is not contagious. You cannot get psoriasis from touching someone who has psoriasis, swimming in the same pool, or even intimate contact. Psoriasis is much more complex.
Some common triggers are a stressful life event, skin injury, and throat infection. Many people say that that their psoriasis first appeared after experiencing one of these. Triggers are not universal. What triggers psoriasis in one person may not cause psoriasis to develop in another.
A family history of psoriasis seems to increase the risk of developing psoriasis. It is important to know that a family history of psoriasis does not guarantee that someone will develop psoriasis.
Psoriasis can begin at any age, from infancy through the golden years. There are, however, times when psoriasis is most likely to develop. Most people first see psoriasis between 15 and 30 years of age. About 75% develop psoriasis before they turn 40. Another common time for psoriasis to begin is between 50 and 60 years of age.
For some people, psoriasis is a nuisance. Others find that psoriasis affects every aspect of their daily life. The unpredictable nature of psoriasis may be the reason. Psoriasis is a chronic (lifelong) medical condition. Some people have frequent flare-ups that occur weekly or monthly. Others have occasional flare-ups.
In many the course is gentle and insidious often with one or two persistent troublesome patches.
When psoriasis flares, it can cause severe itching and pain. Sometimes the skin cracks and bleeds. Sometimes a flare-up requires a visit to a dermatologist for additional treatment.
Severe cycles of flare-ups and remissions often lead to feelings of sadness, despair, guilt and anger as well as low self-esteem. Depression is higher in people who have psoriasis than in the general population. Feelings of embarrassment also are common.
As psoriasis is a life-long condition, it is important to take an active role in managing it. Learning more about psoriasis, seeing a dermatologist to discuss treatment options, and developing a healthy lifestyle can help people live life to the fullest.