Psoriasis is a skin disease which causes red, itchy scaly spots, most often on the knees, elbows, scalp and trunk.
Psoriasis is a severe, chronic disease which has no cure. It appears to go through periods, flaring for a couple of weeks or months, then subsidizing or going into remission for a period. There are treatments available to help you control the symptoms. And you can incorporate lifestyle habits and coping strategies to help you live better with psoriasis.
Symptoms of Psoriasis
Signs and symptoms of psoriasis may vary from one person to another person. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Red skin patches covered with dense, silvery scales
- Small scaling spots (commonly seen in children)
- Dry, crack skin which can be bleed or itch
- Itching, burning or soreness
- Thickened, pitted or ridged nails
- Swollen and stiff joints
Psoriasis patches can vary from a few dandruff-like scaling spots to massive eruptions covering large areas. The most commonly affected areas are the lower back, elbows, knees, and legs, soles of the feet, scalp, face and palms.
Most psoriasis forms go through periods, flaring for a couple of weeks or months, then subsidizing for a while or even going into remission.
There are several types of psoriasis, including:
Plaque Psoriasis: Plaque psoriasis, the most common type, causes swollen, raised red skin patches (lesions) covered with silvery scales. The plaques might be itchy or tender, and there may be few or many. They usually appear on elbows, knees, lower back and scalp.
Nail Psoriasis. Psoriasis can affect fingernails and toenails, causing pitting, irregular growth and discolouration of the nails. Psoriatic nails (onycholysis) can loosen and detach from the nail pad. In extreme cases, the nail can crumble.
Guttate Psoriasis. This type primarily affects young adults and children. It’s usually triggered by a bacterial infection such as strep throat. It’s marked by small, drop-shaped, scaling lesions on the trunk, arms or legs.
Inverse Psoriasis: This mainly affects the skin folds of the groin, buttocks and breasts. Inverse psoriasis leads to smooth red skin patches which worsen with friction and sweating. This psoriasis can be caused by fungal infections.
Pustular Psoriasis: This rare form of psoriasis causes clearly defined pus-filled lesions that occur in widespread patches (generalized pustular psoriasis) or smaller areas on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet.
Erythrodermic Psoriasis: Erythrodermic psoriasis, the least common form of psoriasis, will cover the entire body with a red, peeling rash that can itch or rapidly burn
Psoriatic Arthritis: Often, the first or only symptom or sign of psoriasis is the symptoms of the joint. And at times only nail changes are seen. Symptoms vary from mild to extreme, and any joint can be affected by psoriatic Arthritis. It can cause stiffness and progressive joint damage which can lead to permanent joint damage in the most severe cases.
When to see a doctor
If you think you might suffer from psoriasis, see your doctor. If you have psoriasis, speak to your doctor:
- Becomes severe or widespread
- Causes you discomfort and pain
- Creates concern for the appearance of the skin
- Contributes to joint issues, such as discomfort, swelling or inability to perform everyday tasks
- Doesn’t improve with treatment
Psoriasis is thought to be an immune system problem that causes the skin to regenerate at faster than normal rates. In the most common type of psoriasis, known as plaque psoriasis, this quick cell turnover contributes to red patches and scales.
Just what causes the immune system to malfunction isn’t entirely clear. Researchers believe both genetics and environmental factors play a role. The condition is not contagious.
People those are predisposed to psoriasis can have no symptoms for years until the disease is triggered by some environmental factor. Common psoriasis triggers include:
- Infections, like strep throat or skin infections
- Weather, especially cold, dry conditions
- Damage to the skin, such as cutting or scratching, bug bite or extreme sunburn
- Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
- Much alcohol consumption
- Some medicines — like lithium, high blood pressure medicines and antimalarial medicines.
- Rapid withdrawal of oral or systemic corticosteroids
Anyone can develop psoriasis. About a third of instances begin in the pediatric years. These factors can increase your risk:
Family History: The condition runs in families. Having one psoriasis parent raises the risk of developing the disorder, and having two psoriasis parents increases your risk even more.
Stress: Since stress may affect your immune system, your risk of psoriasis can increase with high-stress levels.
Smoking: Tobacco smoking not only raises the risk of psoriasis but can also increase the severity of the disease. Smoking can also play a part in the disease’s initial development.
If you have psoriasis, you’re at greater risk of developing other conditions, including:
Psoriatic arthritis causing discomfort, rigidity and swelling in and around the joints;
- Eye conditions, such as conjunctivitis, blepharitis and uveitis
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Other autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease, sclerosis and the inflammatory bowel disease called Crohn’s disease
- Mental health conditions, such as low self-esteem and depression