What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis does not discriminate. It is a chronic medical condition that effects people of all ages, genders, and races. When skin cells grow at a rapid pace, the immune system gets faulty signals causing accelerated skin cell growth. Depending on the type of psoriasis you have, you may have lesions develop on your skin when the cell growth is out of control. Although the causes remain unknown, we do know that genetics and the immune system play an important role in this non-contagious skin defect.
Our board-certified Dermatologist, Dr. Anthony Nikko, treats psoriasis as chronic condition with various treatments that work to relieve each stage of the condition. Psoriasis can flare up occasionally or frequently, therefore it is important to keep certain triggers away such as stress, skin injuries, specific medications, allergies, nutrition, and climate.
Types of Psoriasis
There are 5 types of psoriasis that vary mostly in appearance and symptoms:
Plaque psoriasis, also known as psoriasis vulgaris, is the most popular of the five types of psoriasis. Raised, inflamed, red plaques of skin covered by silvery white patches of psoriasis are typically found on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back. These plaques cause itchiness, cracking, burning and bleeding. The discomfort can even lead to sleep deprivation and lack of concentration if not treated.
Guttate psoriasis affects mainly children or young adults with a history of strep infections. This type appears as small, red, individual spots on the skin usually on the trunk, arms, and legs. Occasionally, guttate psoriasis is found on the scalp, face, and ears.
Inverse psoriasis can be found on the underarm, groin, under the breasts, and in other skin folds around the genitals and the buttocks. It appears as bright-red lesions that are smooth and shiny. Inverse psoriasis is subject to irritation from friction, especially in areas of constant rubbing and sweating because of its location.
Pustular psoriasis is characterized by white blisters of noninfectious pus surrounded by red skin. It begins with the reddening of the skin followed by formation of pustules and scaling, triggered by infections, sunburn, or medications.
Erythrodermic psoriasis is an inflammatory form that affects most of the body surface and is recognized by a fiery redness of the skin and the shedding of large scales. This type is accompanied by severe itching, and increased heart rate, and fluctuating body temperature. Triggers of erythrodermic psoriasis include infection, emotional stress, alcoholism, and certain medications such as lithium, anti-malarial drugs, and a strong coal tar preparation.
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Symptoms of Psoriasis
The most common symptoms associated with psoriasis include raised, bright red patches of skin that are covered with loose and silvery scales. Plaques can also appear in the same area on both sides of the body, such as on both knees and/or both elbows. The scalp can experience anything from mild scaling to areas of thick, crusted plaques. Itching is common before flare-ups especially when psoriatic patches appear in body folds such as under the buttocks or breasts. Tiny areas of skin bleeding can occur when scales are picked or scraped off. This is known as Auspitz’s sign. In addition, nails can appear pitted or discolored or even crumble and fall off.
What Causes Psoriasis?
The exact cause of psoriasis hasn’t been pinpointed by doctors. The overall thinking is that the immune system overreacts which causes inflammation as well as flaking of the skin. It’s also believed that psoriasis can be inherited. Approximately 1/3 of people who have psoriasis have one or more family members with the condition. Scientists believe that certain genes interact which leads to psoriasis. However, a patient must inherit the right combination of genes as well as be exposed to a trigger. Symptoms can appear after triggers such as a stressful event, taking certain medications, strep throat, cold, dry weather or a scratch, cut, or bad sunburn.
Treatment for Psoriasis
While there is no cure for psoriasis, there are a variety of treatments available to treat the condition depending on the severity and type of psoriasis in question. Mild cases may be treated with prescription lotions, creams and ointments that help to moisturize the skin. When the scalp is affected, shampoos, sprays and oils may be used. Oral medications may also be prescribed, and cortisone shots may be administered to slow down the growth of cells and reduce inflammation. Advancements in laser therapy have made huge improvements for many patients. Using phototherapy to expose a patient’s skin to special, ultraviolet light helps reduce symptoms, as well as help the skin to look normal.
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Help Control Your Psoriasis!
Since psoriasis is not only uncomfortable, it can also be embarrassing, making it difficult for some patients to live their day-to-day lives. It is crucial for a patient to see a dermatologist, such as Dr. Nikko at Nikko Dermatology, to understand how to manage the condition. We invite you to call our dermatology office in Cypress, TX today and make an appointment for your consultation.