Psoriasis, an autoimmune disorder, is a chronic skin condition. It is characterized by inflamed, red, raised areas that often develop into silvery scales on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Psoriasis can also be associated with arthritis. It is estimated to affect 7.5 million people in the U.S.
The cause of psoriasis is unknown; however, it is thought to be caused by abnormally fast-growing and shedding skin cells. The skin cells multiply quickly. This causes the skin to shed every 3 to 4 days. This may be caused by a trigger, such as an injury, sunburn, certain classes of medicines, infection, stress, alcohol, or tobacco. Though not contagious, the condition is hereditary. Psoriasis often returns and can be more severe one time than another.
The following are the most common symptoms of psoriasis. Psoriasis comes in several forms and severities. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of psoriasis may look like other skin conditions. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
When the condition progresses to the development of silvery scales, the healthcare provider can usually diagnose psoriasis with a medical exam of the nails and skin. Confirmation of diagnosis may be done with a skin biopsy (taking a small skin specimen to examine under a microscope).
Specific treatment for psoriasis will be discussed with you by your provider based on:
The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation and slow down the rapid growth and shedding of skin cells. At the present time, there is no cure for psoriasis. Treatment may include:
There is no known way to prevent psoriasis. Although it is a lifelong condition, it often can be controlled with appropriate treatment. Keeping the skin clean and moist, and avoiding person-specific psoriasis triggers (excessive stress, for example) may help decrease flare-ups.