You may have heard of the skin condition called psoriasis or you may have seen people with this condition. The prevalence of the disease is said to affect 2 to 3 percent of the U.S. population according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. While there are no definite claims on studies, it is said that psoriasis affects 2% of the world population.
Psoriasis (pronounced as sore-eye-ah-sis) is a chronic condition of the skin wherein skin cells grow rapidly. Skin cells usually grow within weeks but in the case of psoriasis, skin cells grow within days causing pile up of skin cells and surfaces as lesions. This is said to be caused by a faulty immune system.
It is important to know that this skin condition is not contagious. One cannot acquire Psoriasis by skin contact or in any other ways. It is said that this condition is hereditary and the cause of this is so complex that several studies are still being conducted in order to understand it. Studies have shown that when a person has psoriasis, the number of T cells in the body increases. T cells are a type of white blood cell that fights unwanted organisms. Because of this phenomenon, psoriasis is called a T-Cell mediated disease. This reaction causes the birth of new skin cells sooner than expected. Instead of weeks, skin cells develop rapidly within days.
Although this condition is hereditary, it does not mean that when you acquire the gene for psoriasis, you automatically have the condition. When studying the complexity of this process, scientists said that in order to acquire psoriasis, you need to have a particular set or mix of genes, and it must be triggered to acquire it; common triggers are stressful life events, skin injury or strep infection.
Diagnosis and Symptoms
Psoriasis is first diagnosed usually with the appearance on the skin. There are really no special diagnostic procedures or certain blood tests for this condition. A skin biopsy or scraping is sometimes used as a confirmation for psoriasis.
There are five types of psoriasis – plaque, pustular, inverse, erythrodermic and guttate. The most common type is the plaque psoriasis accounting about 80% of psoriasis according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Psoriasis lesions are described as scaly red or white silvery thick patches that usually develop on the scalp, elbows and lower back. Lesions can develop in any part of the body as well. Some people have mild psoriasis that they barely recognize. Others have moderate to severe cases wherein patches can be visible all over the body. Psoriasis can also develop in nails and this is not a rare condition in psoriasis. It is important to visit the doctor immediately on the first sight of the nail lesion because this can cause joint deterioration when not treated. This may lead to the condition called psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriasis is considered a non curable condition. Although symptoms may be in remission, it can be triggered with several factors such as cold weather and stress. There is no specific age group for people who have psoriasis but usually they are diagnosed in early adult years.
Psoriasis can change the quality of life for the people who have this condition. Sometimes it can bring different types of stress such as at school or work and it can bring social embarrassment.
Although it is non curable, certain treatments can help to minimize the appearance of lesions.
Patients can be treated with topical agents, phototherapy, and systemic agents depending on the severity of the condition. Topical agents containing coal tar, corticosteroids, dithranol, fluocinocide, retinoids and vitamin D3 are used routinely. Topical agents are used for mild cases of psoriasis. On the other hand, phototherapy is used in moderate cases of psoriasis. For the severe cases, systemic agents are being used. Pregnancy should be avoided when in treatments with these types of agents.