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Focus on the Skin » Psoriasis
Psoriasis can be a very painful, self-esteem-lowering skin disease.
Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory disease which can affect the skin, joints and
nails. The causes of psoriasis are not fully understood and are the subject of
ongoing research. In psoriasis, the immune system is mistakenly activated, which
leads to overproduction of skin cells. Skin cells build up too rapidly on the surface
of the skin, forming raised, red, scaly patches (called plaques). These plaques
are often itchy and sometimes painful. Psoriasis lesions commonly appear on the
scalp, limbs and lower back, but they can occur anywhere on the body.
Some people are not very affected by their psoriasis symptoms, but for others, psoriasis
is a disabling and embarrassing condition that affects their lifestyle and their
interactions with others. There are many available treatments that may help to relieve
symptoms and improve daily life.
IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT PSORIASIS
Symptoms of psoriasis vary from person to person and may include one or more of
the following features:
The severity of psoriasis can range from a few spots of scaling in only certain
parts of the body to major eruptions that cover large areas and are difficult to
treat. Mild cases may be a nuisance, but more severe cases can be painful, disfiguring
and disabling. Roughly 20% of psoriasis case are moderate to severe.
No special blood tests or diagnostic tools exist to diagnose psoriasis. A dermatologist
or other health care provider diagnoses psoriasis from the signs and symptoms by
examining the entire skin surface. Sometimes a skin biopsy is taken and examined under
the microscope to help differentiate between psoriasis and other disorders.
Psoriasis has important consequences, both physical and emotional. Studies have
shown that people with psoriasis have a lower quality of life and lower self-esteem
than people who do not have the disorder. The physical impacts of psoriasis include
irritation, pain or burning sensations. The emotional impacts include an increased
chance of depression and impaired coping skills. People with psoriasis can feel
stigmatized which may result in avoidance of social settings and increased isolation.
In general, the degree of physical and emotional impairment for people with psoriasis
is similar to those who have heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. Mrowietz 2009
The causes of psoriasis are not fully understood today. The current consensus is
that the immune system, genetics and the environment (e.g. stress, cold weather,
etc.) all play major roles in the development of psoriasis. As a result there is skin inflammation accompanied by overproduction of skin cells.
Cells in the upper skin layer normally mature and are shed from the skin’s
surface every 28 to 30 days. With psoriasis, the cells can mature in 3 to 6 days
then move to the skin surface and pile up.
Researchers think that both genetic and environmental factors play a role in causing
T cells to malfunction.
Researchers believe that for a person to develop psoriasis, the individual must
have a combination of the genes that cause psoriasis and be exposed to specific
external factors known as “triggers.”
Like many other skin conditions, scalp psoriasis symptoms may come and go in cycles.
Some people may not have symptoms for weeks, even months. You may notice that certain
factors in your daily life may worsen (“trigger”) your scalp psoriasis
symptoms to flare-up. Trigger factors can be different from one person to another.
It is important to be aware of the factors and avoid them.
Factors that may trigger psoriasis include:
· Bacterial throat infection
· Relaxation and stress reduction may help prevent stress from impacting
Injury to skin
· Cut or scraped skin, severe sunburn
Other suspected factors
· Heavy alcohol consumption
Anyone can develop psoriasis, but these factors can increase your risk of developing
The most significant risk factor for psoriasis is having a family history of the
disease. 1 out of 3 psoriatic patients has a close relative who also suffers from
Other medical conditions
People with HIV are more likely to develop psoriasis than people with healthy immune
Children and young adults with recurring infections – particularly streptococcal
throat infection – may also be at increased risk.
Stress can impact your immune system and may increase your risk of developing or
worsening your psoriasis.
Excess weight increases your risk of psoriasis. In addition, plaques associated
with all types of psoriasis often develop in skin creases and folds.
Smoking and alcohol
Smoking tobacco and alcohol consumption increase your risk of developing or worsening
This is a global website focused on educating the public and patients about skin conditions and the different types of treatments that are available to treat and manage these diseases. This site is not intended as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor, and may include discussions about therapies or treatment options that may not be available in your country. We encourage you to use the information contained in this site to educate yourself about your disease and allow better communication between you and your healthcare professional.
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