Psoriasis is a non-contagious, lifelong skin problem with thickened red and scaly skin. It is very likely to run in families and appears to be caused by errors in how the immune system functions. Certain substances and situations may cause psoriasis to flare or worsen. Triggers may include injury to the skin, HIV and AIDS infection, certain drugs, smoking, alcohol consumption, and emotional stress. Psoriasis may also be triggered by infection with a type of bacteria called Streptococcus.
The condition is common and is estimated that up to 2% of the United States population has psoriasis. Psoriasis can develop at any age, but it is not common in infants. About 15% of people start showing signs of the disease before the age of 10 and approximately 20% of people with psoriasis also develop arthritis. Psoriasis is much more common in white people as compared with African Americans and it often runs in families. Psoriasis affects men and women equally, with women tending to start showing signs at a younger age than men.
Psoriasis typically affects the elbows, knees, buttocks, scalp, and genitals. Areas which rub and cause friction are also particularly likely to develop lesions. Red and raised areas often have silver-white or gray-white scale, but moist areas such as the folds in the body, may not be scaly People with related arthritis may have swelling and pain in the joints or tendons. The nails may also be affected with psoriasis, causing pitting and lifting of the nail plate from the nail bed. Psoriasis may be graded as mild, moderate, or severe. Severe psoriasis affects the majority of the skin surface and sometimes affecting the joints.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder marked by periodic flare ups of sharply defined red patches, covered by silvery and flaky surface. The main disease activity leading to psoriasis occurs in the epidermis, which is the top five layers of the skin. The process starts in the basal layer of the epidermis. Weather is another strong factor in triggering psoriasis. Exposure to direct sunlight tends to help improve psoriasis, but cold and shorter days, as seen in the winter months, can trigger the rash to worsen. Psychological stress has been a common trigger for psoriasis flares, but studies are still unclear as to why this occurs.
There are several different types of psoriasis, including plaque psoriasis which is the most common type. Plaque psoriasis usually appears as thick, flaky patches of skin on one or more parts of the body. Sometimes the patches that affect the skin are large and may occur anywhere on the body. Plaque psoriasis can occur anywhere on the body and the common body parts affected are elbows, knees, scalp, arms and legs. These patches usually do not itch, but will become inflamed if scratched. Guttate psoriasis usually affects children and young adults and appears as small red bumps. These bumps appear suddenly, often after several weeks after an infection such as strep throat. All treatments used for widespread, severe psoriasis have side effects when used for a long period of time. In this case the treating physician will switch to another treatment.