Psoriasis is a complicated and persistent skin disease that got its name from the Greek word for "itch." The skin can become inflamed, with thickened red, areas with shiny scales. The scalp, elbows, knees, face, lower back, groin and genitals, arms, legs, palms and soles, body folds and nails are the areas most commonly affected by psoriasis. Oftentimes, it will appear in the same place on both sides of the body.
The most common form of psoriasis is called "plaque psoriasis"—about 80 percent of people with psoriasis have this type.
Psoriasis can be a condition of extremes. In some cases it is so mild that people don't know they have it. Other cases are so severe that it can cover large areas of the body. The good news is that there are treatments and medications that help even the most severe cases.
It is estimated that in the United States two out of every hundred people have psoriasis. Approximately 150,000 new cases occur each year. Psoriasis is not contagious. It often runs in families because it has a genetic component that makes certain people more likely to develop it.
The cause is unknown. Some studies, however, point to an abnormality in the functioning of key white cells in the blood stream triggering inflammation in the skin. Because of the inflammation, the skin sheds too rapidly and produces the red, silvery scales. Psoriasis can also be triggered by infections, emotional stress, injuries to the skin and reactions to certain drugs. Flare-ups are often worse in the winter, because of dry skin and a lack of sunlight.
Psoriasis can differ in severity, duration, location, and in shape and pattern. The most common form begins with little red bumps. The bumps can grow larger and then scales form. While the top scales flake off easily and often, scales below the surface stick together. When they are removed, the tender, exposed skin bleeds. These small red areas then grow, sometimes becoming quite large.
Psoriasis affecting nails have tiny pits on them. Nails may loosen, thicken or crumble. Nail psoriasis can be difficult to treat. Inverse psoriasis occurs in the armpit, under the breast and in skin folds around the groin, buttocks, and genitals.
Dermatologists diagnose psoriasis by examining the skin, nails, and scalp. If the diagnosis is in doubt, a skin biopsy is usually helpful.
The goal is to reduce inflammation and to control shedding of the skin. Moisturizing creams and lotions loosen scales and help control itching. Special diets have not been successful in treating psoriasis, except in isolated cases.
Treatment is based on a patient's health, age, lifestyle, and the severity of the psoriasis. Different types of treatment, including light therapy (which requires several visits) may be needed.
Our doctors may prescribe topical medications to apply to the skin containing cortisone-like compounds, synthetic vitamin D, tar, or anthralin. These may be used in combination with natural sunlight or ultraviolet light. The most severe forms of psoriasis may require oral medications, with or without light treatment.
Sunlight exposure helps the majority of people with psoriasis but obviously it must be used cautiously to avoid the risk of developing skin cancer.
Treatment is available...Come see the Dermatologist for specific treatment.