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Facts about Psoriasis

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Ever noticed sudden red, scaly patches of skin on your body? It could be psoriasis. Read on to find out more about this disease.

Psoriasis is a disease that mainly affects the skin of an individual. Occasionally, it may spread to the joints. This condition is chronic in nature and keeps recurring from time to time. In this disease, scaly, reddish patches appear onthe skin. This is a sign of inflammation. These inflamed areas also experience excessive skin production. Therefore, a silvery-white layer of skin develops over the red patches. When it affects the joints, it can cause a form of arthritis.

Causes of Psoriasis

There is no single cause of psoriasis. The disease is believed to be the result of a variety of interlinking factors. Psoriasis is generally perceived to be due to genetic reasons. However, it may be aggravated by external factors such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Stress also plays a role in enhancing the symptoms of psoriasis. The disease may be manifested on any part of the body, including areas like the scalp, elbows, joints of limbs, etc.

This disease strikes both males and females, on an equal basis. It can affect people of all ages but is most likely to affect an individual between fifteen and twenty five years of age. People affected between these ages are also more likely to suffer frequent recurrences and have a greater level ofinflammation.

Types of Psoriasis

Psoriasis can occur in a variety of forms as follows:

Plaque psoriasis: It is the most common form of psoriasis and affects nearly ninety percent of the people afflicted with this disease. In this form, the inflamed areas are lightly covered with silvery skin. The entire inflamed portion is also raised up slightly, giving it a plaque-like appearance.

Flexural psoriasis: In this type, the inflamed skin has a smooth appearance. It is commonly observed in the folds of skin between the thigh and groin, armpit area, under an overweight stomach etc. Due to its location, the psoriasis tends to be aggravated by factors such as sweat and friction. This also makes the area vulnerable to fungal infections.

Guttate psoriasis: This type of psoriasis is characterised by numerous, tiny, oval shaped inflamed areas. These spots occupy large areas of the skin such as the chest, scalp, etc. This type of psoriasis is associated with a throat infection caused by streptococcus bacteria.

Pustular psoriasis: People afflicted with this form of psoriasis typically have raised parts of red skin. These raised areas are filled with a pus-like fluid which is non-infectious. The pustules may be restricted to one particular area of the body i.e. localised or they may be spread all over.

Psoriatic arthritis: This type of psoriasis causes inflammation of the connective tissue in the joints. It usually affects the joints of fingers, toes, knees, hips, and the spine. If it is in the fingers or toes, these appendages tend to swell up and the condition is referred to as dactylitis.

Erythrodermic psoriasis: This is an extremely advanced form of psoriasis. There is widespread inflammation of the skin and plaques cover almost every inch of the body. These plaques are itchy, swell up and cause and are extremely painful. This type of psoriasis may be deadly, since the plaques prevent the skin from regulating the body temperature.

Treatments Available

Treatment for psoriasis is difficult because results for any method vary greatly among people. Initially, a medicated cream containing corticosteroids and vitamin D is applied to the affected area. Corticosteroids reduceinflammation while vitamin D inhibits the growth of skin cells.

If the creams do not work, the next available treatment is phototherapy. The outer layer of the skin can absorb ultraviolet light belonging to the 'B' spectrum i.e. UVB light. Regular exposure to UVB light, over a period of several weeks, is believed to cure psoriasis completely. This treatment is usually carried out along with application of medicated creams.

For extremely resistant forms of the disease, specialised medicines have been formulated, which are either injected or taken orally. These medicines interfere with the immune system response associated with psoriasis. However, these medicines are extremely toxic and patients taking them must also undergo regular blood and liver function tests.

Patients suffering from this disease should not lose heart. Researchers are constantly coming up with new medicines and treatment options. In time, an actual cure for psoriasis will be found.

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