PSORIASIS

OVERVIEW

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes flaky, silver patches on the skin, with underlying red patches. The severity of psoriasis varies greatly from person to person. For some people it is just a minor irritation, but for others it has a major impact on their quality of life.

The mechanism of skin disease in psoriasis is the life cycle of skin cells speeds up. It causes cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin. The extra skin cells form scales and red patches that are itchy and sometimes painful.

MECHANISM OF INCREASED CELL TURN OVER

The cause of psoriasis isn’t fully understood, but it’s thought to be related to an immune system problem with T cells and other white blood cells, called neutrophils, in your body.

T cells normally travel through the body to defend against foreign substances, such as viruses or bacteria.

But if you have psoriasis, the T cells attack healthy skin cells by mistake, as if to heal a wound or to fight an infection. Overactive T cells also trigger increased production of healthy skin cells.

TRIGGERS FOR PSORIASIS

Psoriasis typically starts or worsens because of a trigger that you may be able to identify and avoid. Factors that may trigger psoriasis include:

Infections, such as strep throat or skin infections
Injury to the skin, such as a cut or scrape, a bug bite, or a severe sunburn
Stress
Smoking
Heavy alcohol consumption
Vitamin D deficiency
Certain medications — including lithium, which is prescribed for bipolar disorder, high blood pressure medications such as beta blockers, antimalarial drugs, and iodides

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Psoriasis signs and symptoms are different for everyone. Common signs and symptoms include:

Red patches of skin covered with thick, silvery scales
Small scaling spots (commonly seen in children)
Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
Itching, burning or soreness
Thickened, pitted or ridged nails
Swollen and stiff joints
Psoriasis patches can range from a few spots of dandruff-like scaling to major eruptions that cover large areas.

Most types of psoriasis go through cycles, flaring for a few weeks or months, then subsiding for a time or even going into complete remission.

MANAGEMENT

Psoriasis treatments reduce inflammation and clear the skin. Treatments can be divided into three main types: topical treatments, light therapy and systemic medications.

Topical creams and ointments that you apply to your skin can effectively treat mild to moderate psoriasis. When the disease is more severe, creams are likely to be combined with oral medications or light therapy.

Light therapy uses natural or artificial ultraviolet light. The simplest and easiest form of phototherapy involves exposing your skin to controlled amounts of natural sunlight.

If you have severe psoriasis or it’s resistant to other types of treatment, your doctor may prescribe oral or injected drugs. This is known as systemic treatment. Because of severe side effects, some of these medications are used for only brief periods and may be alternated with other forms of treatment.

 

Dr. Annie

Physician, mom and wife

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