Psoriasis: A Manageable Disease

Although there is no cure for psoriasis, adopting judicious lifestyle choices can help to make the disease management easier.

Psoriasis, a non-contagious chronic disease, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body manufactures new cells in a matter of days rather than weeks. As the cells accumulate on the skin’s surface, they create thick, dry, scaly patches called plaques. The plaques, which can vary in size and appearance, most commonly appear on the elbows, knees, the scalp, and lower back. The affected areas, which cause intense itching, can develop in smaller individual patches or over a large area of skin.

There are a number of different types of psoriasis, including the most common form, which is plaque psoriasis. It causes dry, raised, red skin lesions covered with silvery scales. Occurring anywhere on the body, they can be itchy or painful and appear as many or just a few. Nail psoriasis can affect both fingernails and toenails, causing abnormal growth and discoloration. Psoriatic nails might become loose or even detach from the nail bed. Inverse psoriasis, which manifests in smooth patches of red, inflamed skin that are exacerbated by perspiration and friction, primarily affects the skin in the groin, armpits, around the genitals and under the breasts. 

A more rare type of psoriasis, pustular psoriasis, can occur in widespread patches or in smaller patches on the hands, feet or fingertips. Typically developing quickly, pus-filled blisters may appear hours after the skin initially becomes tender and inflamed. The blisters may come and go frequently and may cause chills, fever, severe itching and diarrhea. Erythrodermic psoriasis, the least common type of psoriasis, may cover the entire body with a red, peeling rash that can cause severe itch or burning.

Primarily affecting children and young adults, guttate psoriasis is typically triggered by a bacterial infection such as strep throat. Small water-drop-shaped, scaly lesions on the trunk, arms, legs and scalp are the hallmarks of this type of psoriasis. Fine scales that aren’t as thick as typical plaques cover these lesions. Guttate psoriasis may occur in a single outbreak that disappears on its own, or there may be repeated occurrences. Psoriatic arthritis presents with swollen, painful joints in addition to inflamed, scaly skin.

A particular trigger usually causes or exacerbates psoriasis. You may be able to identify triggers you should avoid if you suffer from psoriasis. Among these triggers are infections, injuries to the skin, such as a cut, scrape or bug bite, stress, smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, vitamin D deficiency, and certain medications, such as high blood pressure medications, antimalarial drugs, and lithium.

Psoriasis can occur in anyone. But various factors can increase the likelihood of developing psoriasis, including family history, such as having a parent with psoriasis; viral and bacterial infections, such as HIV; excess weight; and smoking.

Usually, taking a medical history, performing an exam, and examining the skin can serve to adequately diagnose the condition. Treatments, including topical creams or ointments, light therapy and systemic medication can reduce the skin’s inflammation and clear the plaques. The majority of people who develop psoriasis have it for their lifetime, regardless of which type, with some exceptions among patients with guttate psoriasis.

If you experience symptoms that point to the condition, consult your provider to determine an accurate diagnosis and an effective treatment plan. Learning about the disease can help to provide some control over the condition and having clear skin to the greatest extent possible. Additionally, you’ll feel better and prevent the disease from worsening. Your provider can offer suggestions and recommendations to help you manage your psoriasis in the best way possible.

Ithaca Primary Care

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