Psoriasis is a common autoimmune condition that affects the skin. The disease causes skin cells to build up over time. This creates scaling on the skin’s surface, often in patches. Psoriasis scales are typically inflamed, red, and brittle-looking. In some cases, they may develop a silvery sheen and a thick texture.
Most types of psoriasis are not considered to be dangerous. However, the lesions can last for weeks and months, making them difficult to deal with. In some cases, they are physically uncomfortable, creating an itching or burning feeling. Additionally, researchers have found that people with psoriasis are at an increased risk for developing certain cancers, like lymphoma, pancreatic cancer, and colon cancer.
If you suspect you have psoriasis, make an appointment with your primary care doctor, dermatologist, or rheumatologist. Receiving a diagnosis can lead to personalized treatment options and an increased quality of life.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, which means its symptoms are caused by an outsized immune system reaction. Researchers don’t know the exact cause of this immune reaction, but genetics and past immune responses play a key function. For example, people who have an immediate family member with psoriasis are at an increased risk of developing the condition.
Psoriasis lesions are caused by rapid skin cell turnover. The turnover happens when white blood cells mistakenly attack the skin cells. Over time, this causes skin cell production to increase, which can lead to raised lesions on the skin’s surface.
Some people cite certain stimuli as triggers for psoriasis flares. These triggers are different for every person, but the most common include:
Unlike other autoimmune conditions, psoriasis affects males and females equally. Most diagnoses happen in people with light skin. This is likely due to how lesions present on darker skin tones, which can lead to misdiagnosis.
Psoriasis symptoms vary by person and the version of the condition that person has. However, certain symptoms are widespread across the patient population. The most common psoriasis symptoms include:
Most people experience psoriasis in cycles of remission and recurrence. Some patients do not experience psoriasis for years at a time, while others have flare-ups that can last for several months. Remember that psoriasis remission does not mean that you are free of the condition. It simply means that you are not actively experiencing symptoms.
Unlike other types of skin conditions, psoriasis is not contagious.
There are five types of psoriasis. The psoriasis form with which you are diagnosed will depend on how it manifests on your body. The types of psoriasis are:
Some patients have just one type of the condition, while others develop multiple types over years. Additionally, around one-third of people diagnosed with psoriasis will also experience psoriatic arthritis later in life.
If you are diagnosed with psoriasis, it is important to monitor symptoms. If patches and lesions become more severe over time, schedule an appointment with your medical provider.
Only a doctor can provide a psoriasis diagnosis. They will typically perform two tests to confirm. First, they will perform a physical examination to observe psoriasis scales and plaques. During this part of the visit, be sure to divulge and relevant family history. This may contribute to your diagnosis.
If the doctor believes that your lesions are a result of psoriasis, or if they are unsure, they will perform a biopsy. During this procedure, the doctor will remove a small sample of skin to observe under a microscope. This can both confirm diagnosis and provide information as to what type of psoriasis you have.
If you are diagnosed with psoriasis, your doctor will discuss various treatment options. While there is no cure for the condition, treatments can alleviate symptoms and reduce flare-up recurrence. There are three types of psoriasis treatments: topical treatments, oral/injected medications, and non-surgical procedures.
Most psoriasis patients are prescribed a combination of treatments. Depending on your condition’s severity, you may try treatment options from all three categories. Remember that most psoriasis treatments are not intended for long-term use. They are often prescribed when symptoms begin to flare.
Some doctors will prescribe diet and lifestyle changes for people with psoriasis. For example, eating a heart-healthy diet and losing excess weight can make treatments more effective. Additionally, some people report having certain trigger foods. This often includes refined sugars, dairy products, and red meat. Psoriasis patients are also counseled to consume less alcohol and to begin taking vitamins every day.
Lifestyle changes can benefit psoriasis flareup. Reducing stress can help ease symptoms. Many people with psoriasis practice yoga and meditation to help manage stress.
In most cases, psoriasis is not an exceedingly dangerous condition. People with psoriasis are often able to live normal, healthy lives. But this is a chronic disorder, which means it is lifelong. Receiving a diagnosis enables patients to manage symptoms, which can contribute to a higher quality of life. Remember that erythrodermic psoriasis can be life-threatening because it can disrupt the body’s fluid balance and temperature. However, even this severe form of the condition can be controlled with appropriate treatment.
Around one-third of people diagnosed with psoriasis will also receive a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis. This is a chronic condition that cycles between flare-ups and remissions. Psoriatic arthritis often affects mobility, especially in the fingers, toes, knees, wrists, and ankles. An early psoriasis diagnosis is key to an efficient psoriatic arthritis diagnosis. If you suspect you may have one or the other, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist or rheumatologist today.