What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a noncontagious skin condition that produces plaques of thickened, scaling skin. The dry flakes of skin scales result from the excessively rapid proliferation of skin cells. The proliferation of skin cells is triggered by inflammatory chemicals produced by specialized white blood cells called lymphocytes. Psoriasis commonly affects the skin of the elbows, knees, and scalp. Some people have such mild, limited psoriasis that they may not even suspect that they have the disease. Others have very severe psoriasis that affects their entire body surface.
Psoriasis is considered an incurable, long-term (chronic) skin condition. It has a variable course, periodically improving and worsening. It is not unusual for psoriasis to spontaneously clear for years and stay in remission. Many people note a worsening of their symptoms in the colder winter months.
Anyone can get psoriasis, regardless of age. Psoriasis is most likely to appear first during your twenties or fifties. Males and females get it at about the same rate.According to the International Federation of Psoriasis Associations (IFPA), about 3 percent of the world’s population has some form of psoriasis. In the United States, there are about 150,000 new cases every year. It affects about 2 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
What are the Symptoms of Psoriasis?
Psoriasis causes patches of red, rough skin. In mild cases, it may cause patches of dry, itchy skin on your scalp. In severe cases, it can spread over large areas of your body and cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms.With psoriasis, your red, rough skin takes on the appearance of silver scales. Your skin may also be dry and cracked, which can make it bleed. Your fingernails and toenails can become thick and pitted. You may have occasional flare-ups followed by times when you don’t have symptoms.
Cause and Risk Factors associated with Psoriasis
The exact cause of psoriasis is not known. It involves a problem with your immune system response. In your immune system, it’s the job of your T-cells to attack foreign organisms to keep you healthy. In psoriasis, the T-cells mistakenly attack healthy skin cells. This leads to an overproduction of new skin cells, T-cells, and white blood cells. This allows dead skin cells to accumulate. The accumulation creates the hallmark scaly patches seen in psoriasis.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, genetics may play a role in the condition. You’re more likely to get psoriasis if one of your parents has it. Your risk is even higher if both of your parents have it.Bacterial or viral infections may also be a factor. According to the Mayo Clinic, you’re at greater risk of getting psoriasis if you have HIV. Children with frequent bouts of strep throat or other recurring infections also have a higher risk. Because psoriasis often begins in the folds of the skin, you’re at greater risk if you’re overweight or obese.
If you have psoriasis, see your doctor as often as they suggest. They can help you find a treatment that works for you. Because of the risk of complications, your doctor will do regular exams and screenings to check for related conditions.