The 101 on Psoriasis

Psoriasis on knees

Covering the basics of psoriasis

Itchy, painful, embarrassing, unsightly – these are just some words that sufferers use to describe the condition known as psoriasis. It may seem insignificant to some, but the impact psoriasis can have on one’s quality of life can be significant. From the physical marks, to the psychosocial effects, it can indeed be a difficult disorder to live with.

However, with a general understanding of psoriasis, effective medical treatments and appropriate lifestyle strategies, psoriasis can be effectively kept in-check. 

And you don’t need to be a sufferer of psoriasis to be taking some interest in the condition.  A little understanding from the general public on this condition can also go a long way to help sufferers deal with the condition.

In this article, we give you a bird’s eye view of this complex condition.


What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an immune-mediated disorder that causes skin lesions seen as well-defined, red and scaly patches on the skin.  People may think that the effects of psoriasis are limited to the body’s surface, but this is a disorder that can affect multiple systems. As such, psoriasis may come hand-in-hand with other medical complaints such as joint pains (which may be due to psoriatic arthritis), nail problems (called psoriatic nail disease) and in some cases, heart problems.   It is also worth mentioning that whilst many people are not bothered by their psoriasis, for some, it can impact on the quality of life.


What causes psoriasis?

We do not fully understand how psoriasis comes about, but it is likely to be multifactorial in nature. Genetics plays a role, as multiple cases within families are common. There appears to be genetic abnormalities common between people diagnosed with psoriasis, particularly with respect to genes that code for parts of the immune system. Researchers are still trying to find the connection between genetics, inflammatory reaction and unregulated production of skin cells that causes the visible lesions associated with the condition.  Psoriasis is not due to infection and is not contagious. 

The effect of environmental factors cannot be discounted. Many psoriasis patients report that their symptoms are exacerbated by cold, dry weather, smoking, weight gain, and stress. 

It is likely that the manifestation of psoriasis is a combination of both internal and external factors.


What does psoriasis look like?

Psoriasis lesions on the skin can present in different ways. Note that people may present with more than one type of psoriasis.

One way to classify psoriasis is by the appearance of the lesions. The most common form is chronic plaque psoriasis.  This presents as elevated red patches of inflamed skin with a silvery scale that can occur almost anywhere on the body. On the other hand, flexural or inverse psoriasis is seen as smooth, red, raw skin found in skin folds such as the armpits groin or other skin creases. Yet another form is guttate psoriasis, which appears as small, round, red spots mostly on the trunk and is often triggered by a throat infection.

Psoriasis can also be classified according to the affected body part. There is scalp psoriasis, nail psoriasis, and palmoplantar psoriasis (psoriasis of the palms and soles).


What is the treatment for psoriasis?

Treatment varies depending on the severity of symptoms. Mild cases can be treated with medicated lotions and creams that control inflammation, dryness, and excessive production of skin cells. Moderate to severe psoriasis may require treatment in the form UV light (narrow band UVB or phototherapy) or with medications.  Medication options are considered case-by-case and can be in the form of tablets or injections in specific cases.

Chronic psoriasis may require lifestyle changes. Using gentle skincare and avoiding triggers may be just as important as medical treatment in controlling the condition.  Weight loss (if overweight or obese), physical activity and a care for the mind as much as the body can be important additional measures to manage psoriasis.


Last thoughts

Psoriasis is very common.  Treatment may not always be required but should be pursued if there is an impact on one’s quality of life. Whether it is lifestyle changes, creams, phototherapy, tablets or specialised injections, there is almost always a a treatment option for psoriasis.  


The information presented on this website is for general information and example purposes only, does not contain health advice specific for users and must not be relied on for that purpose.  Please see your GP, dermatologist or other health care professional for specific advice.

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