Psoriasis is a condition of the skin that affects millions of people. It is a very common skin disorder that can involve almost all skin surfaces, though the elbows, knees, and scalp are most often affected. Psoriasis results from multiple factors and the exact cause of psoriasis is still unknown. Trigger factors that can evoke psoriasis in those susceptible include bacterial infections, medications, and stress. Psoriasis can commonly run in families.
Psoriasis is neither contagious nor infectious. It is a disease caused by unregulated inflammation and an increased growth rate of the skin. Patients suffer from areas of red, scaly, and raised skin known as plaques. Sometimes these plaques can itch and/or burn. These plaques are a consequence of a cascade of inflammatory events in the skin which result in skin cells growing at a faster rate than they can be shed from the surface. The result is an increase in the thickness of the top layer of skin called the epidermis.
Surface involvement of the skin is extremely variable depending on the patient, ranging from < 1% to 100% of the total body surface. Thus treatment regimens need to be individualized based on the extent of involvement and the impact on a patient's quality of life. Diagnosis and treatment regimens are best made by a skin specialist or dermatologist. Medications can be topical, oral, injectable, and ultraviolet light based. Some regimens may require blood testing both before and during therapy.
There are many new and exciting treatments that are effective in decreasing or sometimes clearing the skin of psoriasis. Patients with psoriasis do not need to suffer from their disease because of these new developments. Early consultation of a dermatologist may improve quality of life, both now and for years to come.