What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a non-contagious, chronic skin disease that effects more then 7 million people in the United States alone. There are several different forms of psoriasis and varying levels of severity. The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder in which the T-cell receive faulty signals and as a result cause inflammation. As a result the immune system accelerate the growth of skin cells, which pile up on the surface because the body can't shed them as quickly as they are produced. A normal skin cell matures in 28 to 30 days, while a psoriatic skin cell matures in 3 to 4 days. Psoriasis generally appears as a patch of red skin covered by flaky white build up. The most frequent form of psoriasis is plaque psoriasis, which occurs in approximately 80% of people with psoriasis. This form of psoriasis can appear on any skin surface, although it is more commonly found on knees, elbows, scalp, trunk and nails.

Types of Psoriasis

Plaque

Plaque (psoriasis vulgaris) is the most commom type of psoriasis. About 4 out of 5 people diagnosed with psoriasis have plaque. Plaque is a lesion (area of diseased tissue) of red, raised skin. The lesion is usually covered with a flaky scale and a silvery white buildup. The scale is composed of dead skin cells, which shed nonstop from the plaque. The plaque infected skin is generally very dry. Other possible plaque symptoms are the cracking and itching of the skin.

Guttate

Guttate psoriasis lesions resemble small, red, individual drops, which generally show up on the trunk and limbs, and sometimes on the scalp. This form of psoriasis happens often in children and young adults. It is believed to be caused by some form of infection, such as sore throats or tonsillitis, colds, or chicken pox. In addition, it is known to happen after injuries, stress, illnesses, and use of drugs to prevent malaria.

Inverse

Inverse psoriasis (flexural psoriasis) occurs in the armpits, groin, under the breasts, and in other folds around the genital and buttocks area. It shows up as smooth, dry lesions of skin that are red and inflamed. Because of the location in the skin folds, irritation due to rubbing and sweating also happens with inverse psoriasis. Irritation is more difficult for overweight patients.

Erythrodermic

Erythrodermic psoriasis is the least common form of psoriasis. It is inflammatory and often effects most of the body's surface. Erythrodermic psoriasis shows up as a constant, widespread redness. The erythma (reddening) and exfoliation (shedding) of the skin often happen along with severe itching and pain. Swelling may also develop.

Generalized Pustular

Pustular psoriasis (von Zumbusch pustular) spreads over wide areas of the body. It is a rare form of psoriasis, and shows up as widespread areas of reddened skin (erythema). These areas become painful and tender. Pustules-blisters of non-infectious pus-may also show up on the skin. They will dry, and then show up again lasting for more than a few days.

Localized Pustular

Pustules psoriasis (palmo-plantar pustulosis (PPP) ) often shows up in local areas only, particularly on the hands and feet. It shows up as large (up to .5 cm, or about the size of a pencil eraser) pustules in fleshy areas of the hands and feet, such as the base of the thumb, or the sides of the heels. The pustules first come out as a studded pattern throughout reddened plaques of skin. Then they turn brown and peel.

How do I treat Psoriasis?

At this time, there is no cure for psoriasis. However, there are a wide range of treatments available to control and care for your psoriasis. No single treatment works for every patient; therefore, you may need to try out different treatments before you find one that works for you. Treatments are made to control and prevent symptoms of secondary infection due to psoriasis. Treatments are different based on the extent and severity of psoriasis. Mild cases are usually treated at home.

Topical medications include:

  • Prescription or nonprescription dandruff shampoos
  • Shampoos or lotions that contain coal tar
  • Cortisone or other corticosteroids
  • Lubricants
  • Antifungal medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Phenol
  • Sodium chloride
  • Other treatments:
  • Phototherapy (moderate exposure to sunlight)
  • Application of coal tar ointment to sensitize the skin
  • Oral psoralens (medication that causes the skin to become sensitive to light) Severe and resistant cases where lesions cover a large area of the body may need thorough treatment.

At this time, there is no cure for psoriasis. However, there are a wide range of treatments available to control and care for your psoriasis. No single treatment works for every patient; therefore, you may need to try out different treatments before you find one that works for you. Treatments are made to control and prevent symptoms of secondary infection due to psoriasis. Treatments are different based on the extent and severity of psoriasis. Mild cases are usually treated at home.