What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition characterized by inflamed, red, raised areas that often develop as silvery scales on the scalp, elbows, knees and lower back.
Beyond physical complications that stem from psoriasis symptoms, there is a psychological effect on many patients who are embarrassed by their appearance and develop a poor self-image. This typically relates to a fear of public rejection and psychosexual concerns and creates feelings of emotional and psychological distress, depression and social isolation.
While there are a variety of treatments for psoriasis symptoms, secondary issues relating to the psychological impact should be treated appropriately.
There is some concern for quality of life in patients and it's been shown that psoriasis can affect the health-related quality of life of a patient in much the same ways other chronic disease affect the body. The primary issue is that itching and pain can interfere with normal body functions including proper sleep, cleaning and hygiene as well as normal occupational habits.
While research has yet to isolate specific psoriasis causes, it is believed by many to be caused by an improper response from the immune system. When the body needs to shed an illness at the skin level, it gets rid of old skin and develops new layers. This typically takes place over several weeks. In many cases, faulty signals from the immune system accelerate cell production to several days as opposed to several weeks. As the skin cells rapidly multiply, there is a plaque buildup on the surface of the skin that creates shedding of dead cells and skin flakes.
Medical research has proven that psoriasis is in no way contagious, but instead is passed genetically from one generation to another. It's important to note that a family history of psoriasis does not guarantee that a child or other family member will develop psoriasis symptoms or inherit the disorder.
There are several types of psoriasis:
- Discoid psoriasis-This is also called plaque psoriasis; this type of psoriasis is the most common among patients. Psoriasis symptoms may include patches of red, raised skin on the trunk, arms, legs, knees, elbows, genitals and scalp. Nails may also thicken, become pitted and separate from the nail beds.
- Guttate psoriasis-This type of psoriasis affects mostly children. Psoriasis symptoms may include many small patches of red, raised skin. A sore throat usually precedes the onset of this type of psoriasis.
- Pustular psoriasis-Psoriasis symptoms for this disorder may include small pustules (pus-containing blisters) all over the body or just on the palms, soles and other small areas.
How common is it?
Psoriasis is estimated to affect 7.5 million people in the US.