Psoriasis is a chronic, common skin condition caused by an immune response that prompts cells to build up quickly at the surface of the skin. This results in patches of red, scaly skin that are itchy and sometimes painful. Most commonly, psoriasis is found on the outside of the elbows, knees, or scalp, although it can appear anywhere. It is not contagious but can be associated with other serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression.
There are several types, including:
- Plaque psoriasis
- Nail psoriasis
- Guttate psoriasis
- Inverse psoriasis
- Pustular psoriasis
- Erythrodermic psoriasis
- Psoriatic arthritis
Symptoms of psoriasis may come and go, and can vary by type, but may include the following:
- Red patches of skin covered with thick silvery scales
- Small scaling spots (especially in children)
- Itching, burning, or soreness
- Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
- Thickened, pitted, or ridged nails
- Swollen and stiff joints
Frequently Asked Questions
What Causes Psoriasis?
While the entire cause of psoriasis isn’t fully understood, it is linked to an immune response to T-cells and other white blood cells, called neutrophils. Normally, T-cells help fight against foreign substances like bacteria and viruses, but in those with psoriasis, the T-cells attack healthy skin cells too. Additionally, overactive T-cells trigger an increase in healthy skin cells, which results in visible patches of red, scaly skin.
What Triggers Psoriasis Flare-Ups?
Triggers can also vary from one person to another, but once you know what triggers your psoriasis, avoiding it can help reduce the number of flare-ups you experience. Triggers include, but are not limited to:
- Infections, such as strep throat or skin infections
- Skin injuries, such as cuts, scrapes, bug bites, and burns
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Certain medications, such as beta-blockers, lithium, antimalarial drugs, and iodides
How Is Psoriasis Treated?
Mild to moderate cases of psoriasis can generally be treated with topical creams and ointments. More severe cases may necessitate combination therapy that also includes oral medications or light therapy. Topical treatments include topical corticosteroids, vitamin D analogues, anthralin, topical retinoids, calcineurin inhibitors, salicylic acid, coal tar, and moisturizers. If needed, oral or injectable medications can include retinoids, methotrexate, cyclosporine, biologics, thioguanine, and hydroxyurea. Your dermatologist will determine the best course of treatment for you after an examination and taking into consideration your family and medical history.
If you are experiencing symptoms of psoriasis, the practice of David Stoll, MD is here to help! To request an appointment, please give us a call today.