What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that results in patches of abnormal skin that are usually red, itchy or scaly. The condition can vary in severity, from small, localized patches to widespread areas of the skin. The areas most commonly affected by psoriasis are the back, stomach, shins, forearms and scalp.
Psoriasis is thought to be linked to genetics, with over 1/3 of patients having a family member who also has the condition. There are also certain factors that can exacerbate the condition, including, but not limited to the following:
- Beta blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
- Climate Changes
- Excessive heat
There are five main types of psoriasis:
This is the most common type of psoriasis, affecting 85-90% of patients. Plaque psoriasis is characterized by raised areas of inflamed skin, covered with silvery-white, scaly skin, typically on the elbows, knees, scalp and back.
Pustular psoriasis results in tender, raised bumps filled with noninfectious pus.
Inverse psoriasis results in smooth, irritated patches of skin typically found in skin folds around the genitals and buttocks.
Napkin psoriasis is most often founds in infants and results in red papules that form in the diaper area and may extend onto the torso and limbs.
Guttate psoriasis results in numerous small, red or pink lesions, typically around the torso, limbs, and scalp.
- Red patches of skin covered with silvery scales
- Small scaly patches
- Dry, cracked skin
- Bleeding skin
- Itchy skin
- Burning skin
- Patches of irritated skin
- Thick or ridged nails
- Swollen and stiff joints
Psoriasis can be diagnosed by a thorough physical examination of the skin, either by your general doctor or a dermatologist. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor may perform a skin biopsy, in which they remove a small skin sample and examine it under a microscope. This can distinguish the type of psoriasis and also rule out other skin conditions.
There is no cure for psoriasis, but there are many treatments that can reduce the severity of symptoms. These treatments include topical medications, like corticosteroids, salicylic acid or calcineurin inhibitors. Phototherapy is another treatment to reduce the effects of psoriasis. In phototherapy, natural or artificial ultraviolet light is used to decrease symptoms of the condition. In severe cases of psoriasis, oral medications or injections can be used to treat symptoms. These medications include retinoids, cyclosporine or methotrexate.