World Psoriasis Day is Saturday, October 27, and we want to shed some light on this disease. Psoriasis isn’t just a rash that affects your elbows, knees, and scalp, it’s also associated with other serious conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression. If you develop a rash that won’t go away with over-the-counter medication, you should contact your doctor for a diagnosis so you can begin necessary treatment.
What is it and what causes psoriasis?
Psoriasis occurs in people whose skin cells grow at an abnormally fast rate, which causes the build of a psoriasis lesions. You can’t “catch” psoriasis and it’s not something that you can spread to others. Though, we don’t know what causes it, but do know that it’s an autoimmune disease and that genetics play a major role in its development.
Some young people report the onset of psoriasis following an infection, particularly strep throat, earache, bronchitis, tonsillitis or a respiratory infection.
Who does psoriasis affect?
Men, women, and children of all ages can all develop psoriasis, though it’s rare in infants. About 10-15% of people with psoriasis develop the disease before age 10, but it most often it develops between the ages of 15 and 35. If you have a family member with the disease, you are more likely to develop it, too. If one parent has the disease, there is about a 10% chance of a child contracting it; and if both parents have it, then the chances increase to 50%.
What are the symptoms of psoriasis?
Psoriasis is often misdiagnosed because it’s confused with other skin diseases, but here are some things to look out for:
- Red, inflamed skin cover in silver-colored scales
- Pitting and discoloration of the nails
- Scaling of the scalp
- Small areas of the bleeding where the involved skin is scratched
Psoriasis can show up anywhere—on the eyelids, ears, mouth and lips, skin folds, hands and feet, and nails. The skin at each of these sites is different and requires different treatments.
What are the types of psoriasis?
Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of the disease and appears as raised, red patches covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells. These patches or plaques most often show up on the scalp, knees, elbows and lower back. They are often itchy and painful, and they can crack and bleed.
Guttate psoriasis appears as small, dot-like lesions. Guttate psoriasis often starts in childhood or young adulthood, and can be triggered by a strep infection. This is the second-most common type of psoriasis, after plaque psoriasis.
Inverse psoriasis shows up as very red lesions in body folds, such as behind the knee, under the arm, or in the groin, especially in men. It may appear smooth and shiny. Genital psoriasis requires careful treatment and attention.
Pustular psoriasis is characterized by white blisters of noninfectious pus surrounded by red skin. The pus consists of white blood cells. It is not an infection, nor is it contagious. Pustular psoriasis can occur on any part of the body, but occurs most often on the hands or feet.
Erythrodermic psoriasis is a particularly severe form of psoriasis that leads to widespread, fiery redness over most of the body. It can cause severe itching and pain, and make the skin come off in sheets. It is rare, occurring in 3% of people who have psoriasis. This form of psoriasis can be life-threatening. If you experience these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
How is psoriasis treated?
Like other diseases, treatments for psoriasis is customized for each person to reduce or eliminate your symptoms. This requires working with your doctor and trying different options until you find the right treatment for you.
Some treatment options include:
Biologics: Usually prescribed for moderate to severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis that have not responded to other treatments. They are given by injection or intravenous (IV) infusion.
Systemics: Prescription medications that are taken orally or by injection, and they are usually used for individuals with moderate to severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Phototherapy (light therapy): involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light on a regular basis and under medical supervision.
Oral treatments: improve symptoms of psoriatic disease by helping control inflammation. Unlike biologics, which are derived from living sources and must be administered via injection or infusion, these treatments can be effectively delivered as tablets taken by mouth.
Topical treatments: applied to the skin, these are usually the first treatment to try when diagnosed with psoriasis. Topicals can be purchased over the counter or by prescription.
For more information about psoriasis ask your doctor, your pharmacist, or visit psoriasis.org.