Psoriasis Action Month, also known as Psoriasis Awareness Month, is celebrated in August each year. Like other health awareness initiatives on the calendar, the designation of August as Psoriasis month provides an opportunity for our team at Premier Medical to raise awareness about a skin condition, its causes, triggers, and treatment. By learning more, you’ll also be better prepared to take care of your skin, spot abnormalities, and seek help from a dermatologist, should you need medical care.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is a chronic autoimmune disease affecting the skin that is characterized by red patches of raised skin, called plaque. These patches of raised skin are often found on the elbows, knees, scalp, face, and skin folds, such as underneath the breasts. Psoriasis often results in itching, burning or stinging and affects more than 7 million Americans.
Primary care doctors may recognize this skin condition. However, dermatologists, or skin doctors, are trained to effectively diagnose and treat psoriasis, which otherwise could be confused with other skin disorders like eczema.
What causes psoriasis?
Medical experts believe psoriasis occurs when patients have skin cells that react to an overactive immune system that speeds up cell growth. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, normal skin cells grow completely and eventually shed in about a month. This process of skin growth occurs in a few days, usually three to four days. However, the skin cells of those who have psoriasis do not shed or fall off. They build up, piling up on the surface of the skin.
This results in the buildup of excess skin cells that are scaly, red and patchy. According to these experts, genetics and the immune system are contributory factors to the development of psoriasis.
Psoriasis is a chronic or long-term disease that can be treated, for example with skin ointments or creams, light therapy or various drugs, but there is currently no cure for the disease. It can flare up and affects patients for weeks or even months before the symptoms subside.
Types of psoriasis
Like many skin disorders, psoriasis affects individuals on different levels of severity. Common types of psoriasis include the following:
- Plaque psoriasis
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association about 80% to 90% of people who have psoriasis develop this type. It is characterized by plaques – dry, itchy patches of raised skin. Individuals with plaque psoriasis may have a few patches of plaque or many and these patches may vary in color depending on the color of one’s skin. Common triggers include infections, injury to skin, tobacco or alcohol use, stress, or certain medications.
- Guttate psoriasis
Unlike plaque psoriasis which can affect individuals of any age, guttate psoriasis mainly affects children and young adults. It is characterized by small, tear-drop shaped, scaling spots that often appear on the torso, arms or legs. It is usually triggered by bacterial infections, for instance strep throat.
- Scalp psoriasis
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, 45 to 56% living with psoriasis have scalp psoriasis. Symptoms include raised, crusted plaque or fine, dandruff-like scaling. Scalp psoriasis may affect areas of the scalp, hairline, and skin around the ears, back of the neck or forehead.
- Nail psoriasis
As the name suggests, this type of psoriasis affects both fingernails and toenails. It causes discoloration of the nails, pitting and abnormal nail growth.
- Inverse psoriasis
Inverse psoriasis mainly affects skin folds in areas that include the groin, buttocks and breasts. Unlike plaque psoriasis and other types of psoriasis that result in thick, itchy, raised skin, inverse psoriasis is characterized by smooth patches of inflamed skin. Friction and sweating can worsen the symptoms. Fungal infections are a common trigger for this type of psoriasis.
How to take care of your skin
Your skin is your body’s largest organ. It is one of the most versatile organs, providing vital functions that include protection from bacteria and other organisms. As a sense organ it provides information about temperature, pain, pressure and pleasure. It also cools the body via sweat. By taking care of this versatile organ you are helping maintain overall health. Here are a few ways you can take care of your skin.
- Learn about your triggers
For persons with autoimmune-induced skin conditions like psoriasis, it’s important to know what your triggers are so you can help reduce flare-ups. In addition to common triggers such as stress, skin injury, excessive drinking, medications, dry and cold or hot weather, and infection, the American Academy of Dermatology Association notes that tattoos and piercing can also be a trigger. Be mindful of any unusual symptoms affecting your skin and the external or internal conditions that can cause them to reoccur. Knowing what abnormalities to look out for can also help you take better care of your skin.
- Look out for abnormalities
Moles are a common kind of growth that occurs on the skin, usually brown or black. However, there are instances when these may be viewed as abnormalities that warrant a visit to the dermatologist. Patients with a large number of moles, or those with moles that change size, shape or color may be in need of a visit, especially if the mole bleeds but does not heal on its own after three weeks.
That’s because this could be a sign of abnormal growth in your skin cells – i.e. skin cancer. Know how to distinguish between moles and cancerous growth. According to Dr. Al-Shaer, of Premier Medical Group’s Dermatology division, individuals with 50 or more moles should consider seeing a dermatologist.
- See a dermatologist
A dermatologist is best equipped to check moles and other skin abnormalities to determine if any are problematic. Dermatologists diagnose, treat and perform surgeries to help patients and provide advice to patients to help them better care for their skin.
Do you have a skin related concern or question in mind? Give us a call and schedule an appointment today at #845.451.7272. Speak with one of Premier’s fantastic doctors and get the answers you seek.