Contributed by: Priyaish Srivastava
Those bumpy red patches covered with white scales that appear on the scalp, elbows, knees and lower back may not be just a common skin infection, but a chronic autoimmune condition termed ‘psoriasis’.
Psoriasis develops when skin cells multiply approximately 10 times faster than normal. The disease is considered incurable and the root cause for this condition is inflammation, which is the body’s defence mechanism against external attacks of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. In psoriasis, excessive inflammation occurs, which leads to a progressive form of patches and scales on the skin.
The condition affects males two times more than females, especially those individuals who are in their 30s and 40s. In most cases, the condition usually affects just a few areas, but as the disease progresses, it can cover almost every part of the body. These patches may come and go throughout the infected person’s life. Due to the social stigma attached to this illness, the infected people are at a higher risk of developing isolation and depression.
The presence and prevalence of this disease are worldwide and to increase awareness about the ailment, October 29 is observed as ‘World Psoriasis Day’ every year by the International Federation of Psoriatic Disease Associations (IFPA). The global theme for this year is ‘You are #notalone’.
This year, we hope to leverage World Psoriasis Day to spread awareness about this non-contagious illness in an attempt to help you better understand the condition and to destigmatize it. This article will focus on psoriasis types, causes, symptoms, risk factors, and how to best manage the condition, given that there’s no cure available at present.
Types of psoriasis
You can’t successfully manage psoriasis unless you understand what exactly it is. Here are some of the most common types of psoriasis:
It is the most common type of psoriasis which leads to the occurrence of red and inflamed patches on the skin of elbows, knees, and scalp. These patches are covered with plaques or white silver scales causing itch and pain.
Guttate psoriasis is a condition that usually occurs in childhood and gives rise to small pink spots mostly on the torso, arms, and legs. The appearance of these spots is similar to that of plaque psoriasis and gives the appearance of small, red, and scaly spots that resemble the shape of a teardrop.
Pustular psoriasis mostly affects adults, giving rise to white, pus-filled blisters and also causes redness and inflammation on specific areas of the body such as hands and feet. However, it can also spread to other parts of the body as the condition aggravates.
The patches of this condition most commonly develop under the armpits or breasts, in the groin, or around the skin of genitals. The condition damages the skin by causing repeated episodes of redness and inflammation. Generally, this psoriasis type occurs in combination with plaque psoriasis, which might be present in other parts of the body. Unlike plaque psoriasis, which presents itself as big patches, inverse psoriasis patches are comparatively smaller.
The development of this condition is rare but severe. The ailment covers a large portion of the body, making it appear like the skin is sunburnt and the scales that develop often fall off in large sections. This psoriasis type should not be left untreated or ignored as it can become life-threatening.
This psoriasis sub-type is a combination of psoriasis and arthritis. While both conditions are independent of each other, yet studies have determined that 30% to 40% of psoriasis patients develop psoriatic arthritis as the skin disease progresses. Due to the unpredictability around psoriatic arthritis, doctors recommend that people suffering from psoriasis should opt for regular arthritis checkups.
Causes of psoriasis
Although the exact cause of psoriasis is still unknown, experts suggest that the condition usually occurs when the immune system causes inflammation, speeding up the process of skin cell formation by 10 times. Normally, the skin cells are replaced every 10 to 30 days, but in people with psoriasis, the cells grow every 3 to 4 days. This unnaturally fast process results in the development of silver scales, thus leading to the onset of psoriasis.
Psoriasis can be hereditary but may skip generations. In other words, a grandmother and granddaughter may develop the condition, but the father/mother may not, as the disease marker might skip the generation in the middle.
Psoriasis can be triggered by:
- Antimalarial medication (hydroxicholroquine)
- Blood pressure medication
- Infections (cuts, injuries, and post-surgery infections)
- Strep infections
Symptoms of psoriasis
The manifestation of symptoms of psoriasis may differ from person to person depending on the type of illness. Its appearance can be small and can present itself on the scalp, arms & elbows, knees, and lower back, while progressive to the rest of the body as time passes.
Some of the common symptoms of psoriasis to watch out for include:
- Painful and swollen joints
- Raised and inflamed patches on the skin which appear red on people with light skin and brown or purple on people with dark skin
- Plaques or white silver scales on the red patches or grey scales on the purple or brown patches
- Thick nails
- Skin dryness that can cause bleeding or cracks
- Soreness around the patches
- Itching and burning sensation around the patches
Risk factors of psoriasis
Psoriasis greatly impacts the health of people who already have underlying conditions, such as:
If a person does not suffer from any of these conditions but has developed psoriasis, the chances of developing these chronic ailments increase.
How best to manage psoriasis?
Some measures for the management of psoriasis include:
- Getting regular diagnostic checks or a biopsy
- Applying ointments as prescribed by the doctor
- Controlling and managing stress
- Avoiding alcohol
- Not leaving any injury untreated
- Following the medication regimen prescribed by the doctor
- Increasing the intake of vitamin D
- Losing extra kilos
- Consuming more healthy foods
- Avoid foods that can trigger the condition (red meat, refined sugar, processed foods, and dairy products)
Note: It is a common misconception that psoriasis is contagious, which is wrong. The condition is not contagious and it can’t pass from an infected person to a person who isn’t through physical contact.
Psoriasis is a chronic condition that can affect anyone. To manage this ailment, a person should seek immediate medical attention upon experiencing the aforementioned symptoms. Medical assistance is important for psoriasis management because applying any ointment or consuming any medicine without prescription can lead to the worsening of the condition and also significant side effects.
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