Psoriasis

Who gets Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory, inherited skin disease that causes dysfunction in the immune system. This manifests as an abnormal activation of T lymphocytes (immune cells in the skin). The T cells release cytokines, which cause inflammation in the skin and a rapid overgrowth skin cells. Approximately 2% of the population is affected. The disease can appear at any age, but tends to be most common during the 20’s and 50’s. Psoriasis affects men and women equally.

What Causes Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a hereditary problem that causes skin cells to mature and proliferate abnormally. Certain medications can trigger psoriasis. Alcohol and smoking may aggravate psoriasis and make it more difficult to treat.

Can I spread Psoriasis to Other People?

No. Psoriasis is not contagious. It is not an infection. Touching other people will not cause them to develop psoriasis.

What Does Psoriasis Look Like?

Generally, psoriasis is localized to one or several areas of the body. It commonly occurs on the scalp, elbows, and knees; but it can occur anywhere, even on nails and genitals. Affected skin appears as raised red areas covered with a thick silvery scale. These may or may not itch. 5-8% of people with psoriasis also have psoriatic arthritis, which presents as painful swelling and deformities of the joints.

How is Psoriasis Treated?

Although there is no cure for psoriasis there are a number of ways to manage it. In many instances, psoriasis, can be treated quite effectively; often to the point where it will be in remission for long periods. The type of therapy chosen depends on the extent of involvement of psoriasis, the particular areas of body involved, presence of psoriatic arthritis, and any other medical conditions. Treatments can range from a multitude of topical medications, phototherapy, oral immunomodulators, and self-administered injections of biologic agents (the newest medications).

The National Psoriasis Foundation is an excellent source of information and provides a periodic newsletter to members. Their website is www.psoriasis.org.