Psoriasis is a
common skin disorder that affects men and women at any age.
It causes a thick,
rough, dry build-up of the outer layer of the skin. These red patches on the
skin are covered by silvery white scales and mainly develop on the knees, elbows,
back or scalp, but almost any area of the body can be affected.
Psoriasis is not
infectious and does not scar the skin.
Psoriasis is a
chronic disease, which means you may have it for months or years. However early
treatment may minimise the severity of the disorder.
Psoriasis is the
growth of too many skin cells a normal skin cell matures in 2830
days but a psoriatic skin cell takes only 36 days. The exact cause of
this is not known. There may be a genetic link that is triggered by another
factor for example, a throat infection, stress or injury to the skin.
There are certain
times in life when the tendency to develop psoriasis is increased for
example, during puberty or in women during or after the menopause. However no
obvious cause can be detected in the majority of people who develop psoriasis.
there different types of psoriasis?
There are different
types of psoriasis, but it is important to remember that psoriasis changes over
time it may flare up, improve, change to another form, or several forms
may exist at the same time:
Plaque psoriasis:This is the most common type of psoriasis. Raised, inflamed (red) lesions
are covered with a silvery white scale. This scale is a build-up of dead skin
cells. Plaque psoriasis may appear on any part of the skin, although it appears
most commonly on the knees, elbows, scalp and trunk.
In guttate psoriasis small red dots of psoriasis develop most often on
the trunk, arms and legs. There may be some scaling. Guttate psoriasis can
be triggered by a throat infection, tonsillitis, a cold, chicken pox, immunisations,
physical trauma, psychological stress, illness, or the administration of antimalaria
Red, shiny areas develop in the armpit, groin, under the breast and in other
skin folds. Flexural psoriasis appears as smooth inflamed lesions without
scaling and is prone to irritation due to rubbing and sweating.
Pustular psoriasis:Smaller, circular patches, filled with pus appear on the palms of the
hands and soles of the feet. The pus is made up of white blood cells in the
skin. It is not an infection and is not contagious.
psoriasis:This is a serious but rare, complication of psoriasis. Large
areas of the skin become hot, red and dry and you may also experience itching,
pain and swelling. This is one of the few emergencies involving skin conditions.
If you suffer from this disorder your doctor will admit you to hospital.
About 10 percent of the people who have psoriasis will develop a form of arthritis
called psoriatic arthritis. This causes inflammation and swelling in the hands,
feet or in larger joints such as the knees, hips, elbows and the spine. It
may cause stiffness, pain and joint damage.
Scalp psoriasis affects at least half of all people who have psoriasis.
Raised, inflamed lesions covered with silvery white scales will develop on
the scalp and particularly along the hair margins.
Psoriasis can affect toenails and fingernails. It usually appears as pits
in the nails and the nails may change to a yellowish colour and become thick
or crumble easily. They may also be surrounded by inflammation. In some cases
the nail may break away from the nail bed.
is psoriasis diagnosed?
Your doctor will
usually make the diagnosis by examining your skin and/or nails. Blood tests
may be ordered if you also have inflamed joints.
is psoriasis treated?
is no cure for psoriasis, treatment is usually effective. The skin becomes less
scaly and may look completely normal. However there is a tendency for psoriasis
to return. There are several different treatments available and you should discuss
with your doctor which treatments are best suited to you:
creams and ointments these will moisturise dry skin and are a substitute
for soap when washing the skin.
some of these contain tar or antiseptics, which can provide other benefits
in addition to the moisturising effect.
doses of sunlight taken in short exposures can help to improve psoriasis.
Sunburn may make psoriasis worse.
ointments, lotions and shampoos help to reduce scaling and have an anti-inflammatory
topical (applied to the skin) preparations can be effective.
applications can help to remove thick layers of overgrown skin and scales.
can be prescribed by a dermatologist and can be very helpful if used appropriately.
creams and ointments can be used for short periods to treat psoriasis on the
face or in body folds.
can I do?
Because the cause
is not yet known, doctors do not know how to prevent psoriasis. However you
may be able to prevent serious outbreaks by treating small plaques when you
first see them and it does help to use skin moisturisers instead of soap to
prevent the skin from drying.
psoriasis is very bad and isnt responding to treatment. Are there any
There are other
options for people with severe psoriasis (i.e. at least 20% of their body surface
is covered with psoriasis) who do not respond to the treatments listed above.
These treatments are effective but are used only under strict supervision and
only after the other, simpler treatments have been tried first.
There are side-effects
to all of these treatments which your doctor will discuss with you. You must
also advise your doctor if you are pregnant, as many of these treatments cannot
be used during pregnancy:
(PUVA) PUVA is a term used for a combined treatment with psoralen,
a light-sensitive drug and ultraviolet A light.
drugs derived from Vitamin A) with or without PUVA.
drugs that slow down the rapidly dividing skin cells.
A drugs that suppress the immune system.
is psoriatic arthropathy?
is a form of arthritis that affects about 1020% of people with psoriasis.
The arthritis affects
the lining of joints causing swelling, pain and stiffness.
The arthritis is
usually limited to just a few joints and sometimes affects the spine, giving
a painfully stiff back or neck. It can also affect other joints such as the
and toe-nails develop pits, discoloration and thickening. The outlook is generally
good, as psoriatic arthritis is not usually a crippling disease.