Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition. In its mild form, psoriasis is little more than an annoyance, but severe, persistent cases of psoriasis can be very distressing, and dangerous, to the sufferer. Although it most commonly appears on the scalp, the hands and feet, and the knees and elbows, Psoriasis can occur anywhere on the body, including inside the ears, the mouth, and the genitals.
The exact cause of psoriasis is not fully understood. We know that, in psoriasis, the skin cells grow at a more rapid rate than is normal, piling up on the surface of the skin and causing thick red patches of itchy skin. Those with depressed immune systems, those suffering repeated infections, and those with family members affected, are more likely than others to suffer from psoriasis. Overweight individuals often develop psoriasis in their fat folds. Although they do not cause psoriasis, some medications, as well as stress, smoking, and cold weather do seem to ‘trigger’ symptoms or make existing symptoms worse.
Psoriasis usually appears as raised, red patches of skin. The patches may become covered with loose, silvery scales. The skin may itch and burn. Because the skin affected is extremely dry, it may bleed if the scales are scratched, causing bleeding and pain. If the nails are affected, they will be deeply ridged, pitted, and yellow. In addition to the skin redness, and scales, joints may become swollen and painful. Symptoms tend to flare up at times, and may even totally disappear. Unfortunately, they will return.
There are many types of psoriasis, by far the most common is plaque psoriasis, as seen in the photo. Plaque psoriasis is characterized by patches of raised, reddened skin, covered with silvery scales. It can occur anywhere on the body and the areas may itch or crack and bleed, causing pain. Another type of psoriasis attacks the nails. The pitted, ridged nails may crumble and the layers may separate. Often the nails will become lose and separate from the nail bed. Psoriatic arthritis has all the symptoms of the previous two types of psoriasis in addition to stiff, painful joints. Severe psoriatic arthritis can cause damage to the joints.
If you have any skin condition it is wise to visit your family physician immediately. Only a physician can decide if you have psoriasis or another skin condition with similar characteristics. A physician diagnoses psoriasis by means of a physical examination, and by examining a small portion of affected skin. The skin is removed painlessly, under local anesthetic.
Once your doctor knows exactly what type of psoriasis he is dealing with, he will discuss treatments as well as what measures may naturally alleviate symptoms. For mild cases, he will prescribe a lotion or cream. More severe cases may need, in addition to an ointment, an oral medication. The aim of all treatments is to slow down the growth of the skin cells and also lessen the itching and inflammation. Light therapy is also used for psoriasis. If you do not feel that you are benefiting from one method of treatment, discuss this with your doctor. There are other treatment options available.
Your doctor will also make suggestions for alleviating symptoms such as; losing weight, stopping smoking, avoiding alcohol, over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms, sun exposure, taking measures to release stress and anxiety, and improving your overall health through proper diet and exercise.
Although psoriasis may be chronic and it may reoccur, do not get discouraged. Your symptoms can be managed.