What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis, a common, autoimmune disorder, is a chronic skin condition characterized by inflamed, red, raised areas that often develop into silvery scales on the scalp, elbows, knees and lower back. Psoriasis can also be associated with arthritis. It is estimated to affect 7.5 million people in the United States.
What Causes Psoriasis?
The cause of psoriasis is unknown; however, experts believe it is caused by abnormally fast-growing and shedding skin cells. The skin cells multiply quickly, causing the skin to shed every three to four days.
Though not contagious, the condition is hereditary. Psoriasis is often recurrent and occurs in varying severities. Triggers for this autoimmune reaction include:
- Certain medications
- Alcohol or tobacco use
Types and Symptoms of Psoriasis
Different people may experience symptoms differently because psoriasis comes in several forms and severities. The most common types of psoriasis and their symptoms may include:
- Discoid psoriasis (also called plaque psoriasis): This type of psoriasis is the most common. Symptoms may include:
- Patches of red, raised skin on the trunk, arms, legs, knees, elbows, genitals and scalp
- Nails that thicken, become pitted and separate from the nail beds
- Guttate psoriasis: This type of psoriasis affects mostly children. Symptoms may include many small patches of red, raised skin. A sore throat usually proceeds the onset of this type of psoriasis.
- Pustular psoriasis: Symptoms may include small pustules (pus-containing blisters) all over the body or just on the palms, soles and other small areas.
The symptoms of psoriasis may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
Treatment for Psoriasis
Although there is no cure for psoriasis, treatment goals for psoriasis are to relieve inflammation and reduce the rapid growth and shedding of skin cells. Treatment options may include:
- Ointments and creams to moisturize the skin
- Sunlight or ultraviolet light exposure under a physician's supervision
- Steroids such as cortisone creams
- Vitamin D cream
- Creams containing salicylic acid or coal tar
- Anthralin, an anti-inflammatory drug that treats thicker, hard-to-treat patches
- Methotrexate, an anti-cancer drug that interrupts the growth of skin cells
- Oral or topical retinoids
- Immunosuppressive medications
- Immunomodulary agents
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (310) 825-6911.