Psoriasis- learn more about it!

Today is World Psoriasis Day– a day dedicated to people who have psoriasis. The theme for this year is ‘Informed!’ Staying informed about this condition is important since it isn’t uncommon- it affects 2% of people worldwide.

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition which sometimes also affects the nails and joints. Though not life threatening, it can affect quality of life and recurrences are common.

Can it pass on from one person to another?

No, coming in contact with an affected person will not affect you.

What causes Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory condition, with an interplay of multiple factors. Click each factor to learn more.

Immunology & Skin turnover dynamics

The skin cells of the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) have a life cycle or turnover time, during which the deeper cells form, mature as they slowly rise to the surface and eventually shed off. Normally, this process takes one month.

In psoriasis, the turnover time of the epidermis gets accelerated to as fast as a week. Due to this, skin cells do not get sufficient time to fall off. So, they heap up and accumulate to form thickened skin, and start to shed visibly en-masse as scales. Together with inflammation, there is underlying redness and itchiness.

Genetics

Genetic susceptibility does play a role. It is not necessary that children of affected parents will develop Psoriasis but the chances do increase slightly. If one parent is affected, then the chances of developing Psoriasis in the child is approximately 15% and chances are increased to 40 % if both parents are affected.

Environmental factors

These are more relevant to consider for someone who already has psoriasis. Certain factors (alcohol, smoking, stress, certain medications, infections like sore throat or HIV, obesity and winter months) may trigger or aggravate this condition in someone who is already susceptible.

The affected skin gets inflamed and the turnover time for skin cells speeds up forming thickened skin and scale.

What does Psoriasis look like?

Click to know how Psoriasis presents clinically at each site.

Skin

Psoriasis presents as elevated red patches covered with white scales, mainly over the outer aspects of the limbs especially over the joints (elbows, knees), lower back, palms & soles, scalp etc. However, it can involve other sites as well and may have many variations.

Joints

Psoriasis may also affect the joints, especially the joints of the hands, with pain and swelling (arthritis).

Nails

The nails may be develop pits, crumble or detach from the nail bed.

Psoriasis affecting different sites

Skin

Nails

Joints

Are there other conditions associated with Psoriasis?

A person who develops psoriasis needs to be assessed for associated ‘metabolic’ diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease and obesity by the treating physician.

Is there a cure?

Psoriasis is a disease which is treatable and can be effectively controlled but is not completely curable.

Treatment:

Thankfully there are many treatments available which can target the inflammation process so as to normalise the skin turnover time, reduce redness as well as itching.

One’s dermatologist is the best person to assess and choose the best treatment for psoriasis depending on the type, extent and severity of the condition. Often, a combination of treatment works best. It’s important to not self-medicate, since wrong treatment can make the disease unstable.

Published by Dr. Kanya Rani Vashisht

Dermatologist by day. Dreamer by dusk.

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