Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes skin cells to grow too rapidly. This results in thick, scaly, red, silvery, or white patches of skin, which often itch. This immune-mediated condition affects about 2-4% of the general population. It is not purely a skin condition as many different organs may be involved.
It is not fully understood what causes psoriasis. The condition develops when environmental triggers cause the immune system to attack healthy cells. In the skin, this results in an over-production of new skin cells, which move quickly to the surface of the skin (in a matter of days, rather than weeks).
Skin cells build up in the form of thick scaly patches called plaques, which range in size from small to large. Patches often appear on the knees, elbows, hands, feet, scalp, neck or back. Furthermore, the condition often affect fingernails and toenails, which are symptoms used to rule out related conditions.
Adults are most often affected by this condition. Psoriatic arthritis, which is inflammation of the joints in the presence of psoriasis, affects up to thirty percent of all patients. Psoriasis is not contagious. It is believed to have a genetic component, with environmental triggers.
Stress and withdrawal of steroid hormones are believed to be triggers. Some studies suggest that people with celiac disease have an higher risk of developing the condition.
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Different Types of Psoriasis
The most common form of the disease is Plaque (plaque-like or psoriasis vulgaris). This form of the disease affects about 85%-90% of all patients. Plaque psoriasis generally begins as raised areas of inflamed skin. Later, they take the form of a silvery white scaly center surrounded by a red border. These areas are called plaques and are most often found on the knees, elbows, scalp and back.
Pustular psoriasis appear as raised bumps filled with non-infectious pus (pustules). The skin under and surrounding the bumps is red and tender. Pustular psoriasis is typically found on the hands and feet. The more pervasive form has patches appearing randomly on any part of the body.
Your dermatologist can diagnose the condition. Various over-the-counter and prescription treatments are available. Which treatment works is dependent on the type of psoriasis and the severity of the condition.
Topical treatments which may be helpful contain ingredients such as salicylic acid (to help shed the skin), retinol (Vitamin A), vitamin D and ingredients that can curb the inflammatory immune response.