Psoriasis is a common non-contagious skin condition that causes rapid skin cell growth. The result is raised red dry patches of thickened skin that has loose silvery scales topping it. The most common locations to find psoriasis symptoms are on the elbows, knees, and scalp.
Psoriasis is a non-curable chronic inflammatory skin condition that can range from very mild with almost no symptoms to severe with thick red scaly patches of skin all over the body.
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown. There is thought to be a genetic link because multiple members of the same family tend to develop it. The immune system is thought to play a major role, however research has yet to provide any definite causative factors.
Psoriasis occurs in men and women, all races of people and all geographical areas. Patients may have periods of worsening, improvement and remission of symptoms throughout the course of the disease. Psoriasis causes varied forms of skin lesion.
The type of psoriasis will determine the type of skin abnormality formed.
- Psoriasis Vulgaris (common type) typically has red or pink patches of thick raised dry skin. Most often it affects the elbows, knees, and scalp. Any body area can be involved. It tends to be more prevalent in skin areas with trauma, abrasions, frequent use, or repetitive rubbing.
- Guttate psoriasis has small drop like spots.
- Inverse psoriasis develops in the folds of the navel, belly, buttocks and underarms.
- Pustular psoriasis is marked by liquid filled small yellow blisters.
- Palmoplantar psoriasis affects primarily the palms and soles of the feet.
Lesions on the genitals, particularly the head of the penis is common. Psoriasis can cause very small pits or white spots on the nails. Yellow brown separations of the nail bed called oil spots can also appear. On the scalp psoriasis may look like a very severe case of dandruff.
Psoriasis can also affect the joints causing a form of arthritis. Joint pain and inflammation are characteristics of psoriatic arthritis. Diagnosis of psoriasis symptoms is based on medical history, observation, ruling out other ailments. There are several effective treatments for psoriasis. Treatment is individualized and depends on the type and severity of the psoriasis, the physician and the total body area encompassed.
Treatment for mild psoriasis involving less than 10% of the skin surface may be successfully treated with:
- Topical creams, lotions, and sprays.
- Small local steroid injections into a single psoriasis plaque may help.
- Some patients are not bothered by their psoriasis symptoms and opt for no treatment.
Topical products may be ineffective for treatment of moderate to severe psoriasis involving 20% or more of the total skin surface.
These patients may require systemic treatments such as:
- Oral medications
- Light treatments, including sunlight
- Moving to a warmer climate or treating more aggressively during cold months.
- Injections including larger doses of steroids.
There are greater risks associated with these stronger medications.