All You Need to Know About Psoriasis

At our Salem dermatology clinic, one skin condition that we often see and successfully treat is psoriasis. It can be a common problem, and one well worth talking about.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, which means that your body has mistakenly mis-identified “self” cells for “non-self” cells and aims its immune system at its own cells. In psoriasis, skin cells grow much faster than normal and build up, creating the “lesions” associated with the disease.

What causes it?

There appears to be more than one factor leading to the occurrence of psoriasis. It results from an autoimmune reaction, but is also commonly “triggered” by an event and becomes a problem thereafter that event. Genetics may play a role too.

Who gets psoriasis?

Psoriasis occurs equally in men and women and is seen across all racial groups, although some have a higher incidence than others. While it can occur at any age, it generally shows up between the ages of 15 and 35.

Because it is an autoimmune disease, psoriasis is not contagious– so if someone near to you contracts it ,the only possible danger to your own health would be the genetic component of the disease. According to some studies, up to a third of people with psoriasis also have a family member with the disease.

Is there only one type?

There are actually five generally recognized types of psoriasis, and they vary in severity.

Plaque psoriasis

This the most common type. The “plaques” it refers to are actually built up skin cells and they are usually seen on the elbows, knees, scalp, or lower back. The plaques can be painful and may even crack and bleed.

Inverse psoriasis

This type occurs within the body’s “folds”– behind your knee or elbow, or in your armpit. Unlike the plaques, this type of psoriasis appears smooth and shiny.

Guttate psoriasis

This type looks like polka dots, and it is the second most common type of psoriasis. It often occurs in childhood or early adulthood and its “triggering event” may be a strep infection.

Erythrodermic psoriasis

Erythrodermic psoriasis is rare but very serious– it requires immediate medical attention. It appears as sheets of extremely red skin all over the body and is extremely painful. Loss of epidermis is a major concern with this type of psoriasis.

Pustular psoriasis

This type is what it sounds like: it is characterized by white colored pustules, and while it can occur anywhere on the body, it is most often seen on the hands and feet. The pustules are not contagious.

Health effects of psoriasis

Untreated psoriasis can have many effects on patients. Scaly plaques, pustules, or other manifestations harm self esteem and cause people to feel self conscious. In most cases, the skin disruption is itchy and painful, and in severe cases of erythrodermic psoriasis, it can even be life-threatening.

But psoriasis is also associated with other serious health disorders, like diabetes (which, if type l, is also an autoimmune disease). For this reason and many others, it is critical to work with the professionals at your Salem dermatology clinic to ensure that psoriasis is managed with compassion and skill.

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Photo Credit: Andy Polaine via Compfight cc

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