A baffling, irritating, and life-long medical conditions, psoriasis is a common skin disorder that causes skin irritation and redness. Psoriasis comes in many different forms, comes and goes as it pleases, and varies in its severity.
The most common type is plaque psoriasis, in which the skin cells multiply faster than normal. This causes the skin to become red and thick and possibly have silvery-white patches called scales. You typically see psoriasis on a person's elbows, knees, and scalp, though it can also occur on the palms, torso, or soles of the feet.
What causes this unpredictable skin condition and what are its symptoms? What is the treatment and are there complications? Good questions. Now for the answers.
While the exact cause of psoriasis is unknown and anyone can develop the condition, doctors do know that it is inherited, isn't contagious, and that the immune system is somehow involved. It normally shows up between the ages of 15 and 35. You may have perfectly normal skin and then one day notice your skin take on a new texture and appearance.
For some reason, the immune system in people with psoriasis treats skin cells as an allergy, mistaking healthy skin cells for dangerous, foreign substances and seeks to get rid of them. For most people, normal skin cells grow and rise to the surface once a month. But for those with psoriasis, this process of getting new skin and losing old skin happens way too fast. Therefore, dead skin cells start to build up. Those who already have a weakened immune system are especially prone to severe psoriasis.
Factors that seem to trigger a psoriasis attack or that worsen the condition include the following:
In addition to red, raised, irritated, and flaky skin that comes with the most common type of psoriasis, other symptoms might include joint pain or aches (a condition called psoriatic arthritis), genital lesions in men, dandruff, and nail problems (thickening, yellowing, dents, even lifting off the nail bed). Call your physician immediately if you have any of these symptoms.
While there is no cure for psoriasis, there are treatments available to control the symptoms and to prevent possible skin infection. With proper treatment, symptoms should subside in a few weeks. Topical treatments include skin creams, lotions, and shampoos. Body-wide treatments are recommended for those with severe psoriasis. These medications work to suppress the overly active immune system, not just the skin. Some people choose to treat their psoriasis with phototherapy, during which the affected skin is exposed to ultraviolet light. Antibiotics are given if the psoriasis has caused in infection.
Home remedies that have been found helpful include oatmeal baths to loosen scales, keeping the skin hydrated and clean, getting just the right amount of sunlight, and using relaxation techniques to manage stress.
As if the condition weren't bad enough, possible complications may develop from psoriasis. These include worsening arthritis, pain, horrible itching, skin infections, side effects from the medications, and skin cancer from over exposure to the phototherapy.
Even though psoriasis is a life-long disorder, its symptoms can be controlled with proper treatment. Since it comes and goes, someone with psoriasis may go into remission for years between flare-ups. Without complications and aside from the discomfort and possible embarrassment of the condition, those with psoriasis can lead a normal, healthy life. So if your skin is showing signs of psoriasis, don't give up on having healthy skin. Just be prepared to take extra steps to get it.