Commonly asked questions about Psoriasis:
- What is psoriasis?
- What causes psoriasis?
- What risk factors are associated with psoriasis?
- What are the signs/symptoms of psoriasis?
- Is psoriasis curable?
- What drugs/medicines are used to treat psoriasis?
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes the rapid build-up of skin cells. The build-up of skin cells causes scales to form on the skin’s surface. Redness and inflammation around the scales is very common. Typically scales are white/silver in appearance and develop in thick red patches that crack and bleed.
What Causes Psoriasis?
Health Line states that it is caused by a sped-up skin production process. Normally skin cells grow deep in the skin’s surface and slowly rise to the top over the course of a month before they eventually fall off and die. However, in people with the disease the entire process takes place in just a few short days. When this happens the old skin cells do not have time to fall off, which leads to a rapid build up of skin cells. These “scales” have the ability to develop anywhere on the body, most commonly the hands, neck, face and scalp.
What Types of Psoriasis are there?
Psoriasis.com lists the five different types and their most common symptoms.
- Plaque: The most common form, with about 80% of those with the condition having this. Plaque psoriasis can cause red and inflamed patches of skin and usually develops on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back.
- Guttate: A type that is more common among children. This form usually causes small pink spots to form. This form is generally located on the torso, arms and legs.
- Pustular: A type of that is more common in adults. It causes white, pus-filled blisters and wide spread areas of red, inflamed skin. This form is generally located in smaller areas of the body, such as hands and feet, but has the possibility of being widespread.
- Inverse: Causes bright areas of red, shiny and inflamed skin. These patches generally form under armpits, breasts or other skin folds.
- Endothermic: Usually covers a large portion of the body all at once and is extremely rare. People with this form generally appear sunburned and the scales come off in large sections or sheets.
What Risk Factors are Associated with Psoriasis?
|Family History||The most significant risk factor is a family history of the disease. Having one or more parents with a history of the disease greatly increases your chance of developing it as well.|
|Viral/Bacterial Infections||People with HIV are more likely to develop it than people with healthy immune systems. Children and young adults with recurring infections may also be at an increased risk.|
|Stress||Stress can cause your immune system to work less effectively. High levels of stress may increase your risk.|
|Obesity||Excess weight increases risk. Plaques associated with all types often develop in skin creases and folds.|
|Smoking||Smoking tobacco not only increases your chance of developing it but also may increase its severity.|
What are the Signs/Symptoms of Psoriasis?
- Red patches of skin
- Small scaling spots
- Dry, cracked skin may bleed
- Itching, burning or soreness
- Thick, pitted or ridged nails
- Swollen and stiff joints
Is Psoriasis Curable?
No, there is not currently a cure available for psoriasis. Research is currently being conducted to find better forms of treatment and hopefully someday a cure for the disease.
What Drugs/Medicines are Used to Help Treat Psoriasis?
Mayo Clinic states that there are three main forms of treatments that doctors use when treating psoriasis. They include topical treatments, light therapy and oral/injected medications.
- Topical Treatments: Creams and ointments that are applied to the skin are able to effectively treat mild to moderate types. Topical treatments may include:
- Topical Corticosteroids: Powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that are commonly prescribed for treating mild to moderate types. They suppress the immune system which suppresses cell turnover.
- Vitamin D analogues: Synthetic forms of vitamin D that are used to slow down the growth of skin cells.
- Anthralin: Medication that is believed to normalize skill cell DNA activity. Anthralin is also used to remove scale, making skin smoother.
- Topical retinoids: Are used to normalize skin cell DNA activity as well as decrease inflammation.
- Calcineurin inhibitors: Are thought to disrupt T cell activation, which allows for the reduction of inflammation and plaque buildup.
- Salicylic acid: Helps promote the sloughing of dead skin cells and helps to reduce scaling.
- Coal tar: Helps to reduce scaling, itching and inflammation. However, the reason it works is unknown.
- Moisturizers: Are unable to heal psoriasis by themselves, however, they are able to reduce itching and scaling, as well as being able to help combat dryness that results from other therapies.
- Light Therapy (phototherapy): Uses natural or artificial ultraviolet light to help treat psoriasis. Light therapy treatments may include:
- Sunlight: When T cells are exposed to the UV rays from sunlight it causes them to die. When the T cells die it slows down skin cell turnover as well as reducing scaling and inflammation.
- UVB phototherapy: Is used to improve moderate psoriasis symptoms by administering controlled doses of UVB light.
- Goeckerman therapy: Is the process of combining UVB and coal tar treatments. The coal tar treatment allows the skin to be more receptive to UVB light.
- Excimer laser: Involves shooting a controlled beam of UVB light at a specific wavelength at psoriasis-affected areas to help control scaling and inflammation.
- Oral or Injected Medications: This form of treatment is used for severe psoriasis or psoriasis that is resistant to other forms of treatment. Due to severe side effects some of these medications are only used for a short period of time. Oral or injected medications may include:
- Retinoids: This group of drugs may help to reduce the production of skin cells if you have severe psoriasis that doesn’t respond to other therapies.
- Methotrexate: Helps by decreasing the production of skin cells and suppressing inflammation.
- Cyclosporine: Used to suppress the immune system.
- Drugs that alter the immune system (biologics): Biologics are used to block interactions between specific immune system cells and certian inflammatory pathways. The biologics that are specifically used in treatment include Enbrel, Remicade, Humira and Stelara.