What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a common chronic skin condition that is persistent and untreatable. It is cyclical, meaning there might be periods when the symptoms either lessen and even disappear completely or worsen. Different people may experience different degrees of severity.
Why is this happening?
Psoriasis greatly affects the development of skin cells. It brings about the rapid buildup of cells on the skin’s surface, leading to the formation of red patches that are not only dry and scaly, but also very itchy. This condition is normally worse in patients suffering from arthritis.
[note]There are treatments that are available to control the condition for it has no cure.[/note]
Types of psoriasis
There are different types of psoriasis. These include:
It is also known as psoriasis vulgaris. Majority of the people suffering from psoriasis actually suffer from this specific type. It is the most common type of psoriasis. It mostly affects the elbows, scalp, knees, nails and trunk.
The symptoms of plaque psoriasis include:
- Swollen plaques, red in color
- Cracked skin that can easily bleed
- Itchy plaques that may also be sore
As the name suggests it affects the nails. It discolors the nails and makes them weak and easy to break. It is also another common type of psoriasis, especially among the elderly and those suffering from arthritis. The symptoms exhibited are:
- Discolored nails. They may appear yellowish or reddish in color
- Pitting of the nails. This is caused by loss of nail cells
- Lines running across the nails
- Thickening of the skin under the nails
- Loose nails
- Crumbling of nails
It is also known as inverse psoriasis. It occurs in areas that have folded skin such as genitals, armpits, breasts, buttocks and under the stomach layers of an overweight person. The affected skin appears red, inflamed and smooth. It is quite common in those people who are overweight.
This is psoriasis that appears on the scalp. It makes the scalp appear dry and itchy. It can lead to hair loss in severe cases.
Individuals below 30 are mainly affected by this type of psoriasis. It is associated with streptococcal bacterial throat infection. Guttate psoriasis can also exhibit signs and symptoms of nail psoriasis. In most cases it completely disappears.
It is not quite common. It can either occur in a specialized location such as on the hands and feet or appear randomly in widespread patches.
This is the least common type of psoriasis. Erythrodermic psoriasis can affect the whole body making it itch severely and covered with a bad red rash. It is brought about by certain medications, deadly sunburns and other forms of psoriasis that are not well controlled.
In Psoriatic arthritis, the skin, connective tissues and joints are swollen. The most affected joints are normally the fingers and toes. Knee and hip bones may as well be affected. Psoriatic arthritis can however be treated and managed in the same manner as rheumatoid arthritis. It affects most people aged between 30 to 50 years. However children can also be affected in some cases.
[note]Psoriatic arthritis normally develops about 10 years after psoriasis.[/note]
Its symptoms include:
- Joint pains
- Stiffness in the morning or after a rest
- The swollen joints and tendons appear red in color
- Swelling of the fingers
- Nail psoriasis
- The iris becomes inflamed making the eyes appear reddish in color.
- The eyes become sensitive to light
- Symptoms of psoriasis such as inflammation of the skin
- Inflammation of the spine’s vertebrae
Symptoms of psoriasis
The general psoriasis signs and symptoms may vary from one individual to the other. But at least one of the following has to be there.
- Red skin patches covered in scales with a silvery appearance
- Dry and cracked skin that can easily bleed when scratched.
- A burning itchiness
- Pitted nails
- Stiff and severely swollen joints.
Severe cases of psoriasis can be disabling and very painful. Mild cases will exhibit mild psoriasis symptoms that can recur from time to time.
Risk factors of psoriasis
The following factors are likely to increase one’s risk of suffering from psoriasis:
If one comes from a family whose member or close relative is known to be suffering from psoriasis, then there are chances of him/her suffering from it too. It is estimated that about 30 percent of all those who suffer from psoriasis have a close relative with the same condition.
People living with HIV/AIDS have a higher risk of suffering from psoriasis than those who do not have it.
High stress levels
High mental stress levels can increase one’s chances of suffering from psoriasis.
Inverse psoriasis is very common in people who are overweight.
Smoking not only increases the risk of one suffering from psoriasis, it also worsens the condition. It increases its severity.
Diagnosis and treatment
Immediate heath care should be sought in the event that one experiences the above mentioned psoriasis symptoms. Your dermatologist will be able to determine whether it is really psoriasis or a different skin condition. There are some skin conditions such as Lichen planus and Saborheicc dermatitis which can be easily confused with psoriasis.
There is no known cure for psoriasis. However there are medications and therapies that can control it. [note]The type of treatment to be used depends on 3 factors:[/note]
- The type of psoriasis
- The areas affected
- The severity of the infection
Normally, there are 3 approaches used in the treatment of psoriasis. They can all be combined. These include:
This includes the application of medicines, specifically creams and ointments, to the affected skin area. Topical corticosteroid is the most common medication used. It aids in slowing down skin cells production, hence bringing about less itching and skin inflammation. Vitamin D analogue is another medication that works in the same way.
Phototherapy involves exposing the skin to different types of light. The light can either be natural such as sunlight and UVB, or artificial such as PUVA, which is psoralean combined with UVA. PUVA is normally used in severe cases. Exposure to sunlight helps in alleviating the symptoms.
Oral and injected medicines
If other treatments have not been successful, injections and oral medications can be prescribed in an effort to control cell production. Acitretin and Methotrexate are some of the prescribed medicines that have the ability to slow down the cell growth, hence suppressing the inflammation.