Psoriasis

Table of Contents

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to work against itself. Common symptoms include body inflammation and rapid growth of skin cells.

The chronic nature of this illness can affect people of all ages, genders, and skin colors. Psoriasis cannot pass from one person to another because it is not contagious.

While typical skin grows and sheds within a month, this condition is different. The cell growth process occurs in just a few days in people with psoriasis. Instead of shedding, the skin cells accumulate into raised plaques on the top layer of skin.

Psoriasis plaques can create pain and discomfort. People often have itching, burning, and stinging at affected sites. Scaliness can occur anywhere on the body, frequently on the scalp, elbows, and knees.

Body Locations and Types

Psoriasis may appear all over the afflicted body. Unfortunately, each patient’s experience is unique and individual. There are no absolutes about affected locations but those most affected includes:

  • Scalp
  • Folds of Skin
  • Hands and Feet
  • Genitals
  • Face

There are five main types of psoriasis diagnoses. They include:

  • Plaque Psoriasis – Nearly 80% of all people diagnosed with this condition have the most common form. Plaque psoriasis appears all over the body as scaly, colorful, patchy spots. Found on the elbows, the lower back, knees, scalp, and belly button, the sores itch, hurt, and are inflamed.
  • Inverse Psoriasis – A person with inverse psoriasis experiences smooth, dark red skin in the folds of the body. Skin folds include under the breasts and underarms, as well as the genitals and buttocks. Twenty-five percent of patients experience this form of psoriasis. The intense and itchy condition is painful, made worse by sweating and chafing.
  • Guttate Psoriasis – Patients with the guttate form of this disease usually see it on the torso, legs, and arms. Inflammation triggers spots that are red, small, and round. Nearly eight percent of those with psoriasis have this form.
  • Pustular Psoriasis – Hands and feet are typical sites for the 3% of patients affected by pustular psoriasis. The sores show up as painful white bumps filled with pus. There may also be red, inflamed skin around the sore.
  • Erythrodermic Psoriasis – With only 2% of all diagnoses, erythrodermic psoriasis is rare. It is a systemic, intense red-colored shedding of layers of skin. The symptoms start with painful and severe itching. During a flare-up, there may be several signs. They include heart rate and temperature fluctuation, trouble staying hydrated, and changes in the nails. Patients should seek medical help during a flare-up, as symptoms can be fatal.

Causes of Psoriasis

As an autoimmune disorder, the actual cause of psoriasis remains a mystery. Certain factors may point to answers, like:

  • Genetics (including family and ethnic genes)
  • Environmental components, such as:
    • Injury
    • Infection and illness
    • Alcohol
    • Smoking
  • Medications
  • Health Conditions, such as:
    • Obesity
    • Anxiety
    • Uncontrolled Blood Pressure
    • Diabetes (type 1 and type 2)
    • Elevated Cholesterol
    • Cardiovascular Disease

Symptoms

People with psoriasis may experience a variety of symptoms.

  • Red, scaly rash anywhere on the body (that can include pustules or bumps)
  • Itching, swelling, and pain
  • Changes to the finger and toenails
  • Inflammation throughout the body

Some patients may develop symptoms specifically in their eyes and joints.

  • Psoriatic arthritis (severe arthritis of the joints)
  • Uveitis (inflammation of the eyes)
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid)

Treatments

Though there is no cure for psoriasis, treatments are available. Patients should discuss the best options with their doctor or specialist.

  • Topical treatments
  • Systemic treatments
  • Phototherapy
  • Medication Therapy

Medications

Patients have more than one possibility to treat their condition. Doctors will often treat psoriasis using corticosteroid topical ointments and creams. They may also recommend injections and oral medications, such as:

  • Methotrexate – an immune system suppressant that slows the growth rate of cells
  • Retinoids – i.e., acitretin
  • Biologic Response Modifiers – i.e. Stelara
  • Phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) Inhibitors – i.e., apremilast

Sources:

  1. CDC. Psoriasis. August 18, 2020. Available at: cdc.gov.
  2. National Psoriasis Foundation. Psoriasis: Causes, Triggers, and Treatments. June 2, 2022. Available at: psoriasis.org.
  3. National Psoriasis Foundation. Locations & Types of Psoriasis. June 2, 2022. Available at: psoriasis.org.
  4. NIAMS. Psoriasis: Types, Symptoms, & Causes. September 2020. Available at: niams.nih.gov.
  5. Medical News Today. Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms. January 10, 2022. Available at: medicalnewstoday.com.
  6. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What is Uveitis? November 22, 2021. Available at: aao.org.
  7. National Psoriasis Foundation. Treating Your Psoriasis. October 14, 2020. Available at: psoriasis.org.
  8. NIAMS. Psoriasis: Treatment. September 2020. Available at: niams.nih.gov.
  9. Drugs.com. Methotrexate. September 8, 2020. Available at: drugs.com.
  10. Drugs.com. Acitretin. October 20, 2021. Available at: drugs.com.
  11. Drugs.com. Apremilast. November 15, 2021. Available at: drugs.com.

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