I think I have psoriasis – what do I do?

Have you noticed raised, red and scaly patches on your skin that appear or get worse with stress, change of seasons, illness or when using certain medication? If you have, you might be suffering from psoriasis. It might be time to pay a visit to your GP, but before that, read on to find out more about this skin condition.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a scaly skin condition, that appears as red patches of skin, usually scaly and raised, sometimes itchy or achy, but most often not. These patches are called plaques. It is not a contagious disease: it can’t be transmitted to other people. It might not look nice and, depending on the location and size of the affected area of the skin, it might cause you to feel uneasy, self-conscious or even anxious in social situations. Psoriasis most often appears between the ages of 10 and 30 years, and can cause a lot of difficulties in the (in so many ways already challenging) teenage years.

What causes psoriasis?

There is no certain answer for this question. It is known that genetics play an important role in your predisposition to psoriasis, but there are many more factors involved. However, the mechanism behind the scaly patches, which can be attributed to a fault in the immune system, is simple cell overgrowth. Normally, your skin regenerates every two to three weeks, with new skin cells taking around that time to migrate to the surface of the skin, die and fall off it. This is a normal process that we do not notice in our everyday life. But in plaques, this process is much faster: the turnover of skin cells is about 4-7 days. This means that new cells get mixed with the old dead ones at the surface, stopping the dead layer to be naturally peeled off and forming the bulging red and scaly patches.

Why does my skin sometimes look better than other times?

In people with psoriasis, cold weather can cause flares, while most people report that sunshine can help their skin heal for a period of time. Stress can also trigger plaques to appear or increase in size, which in return does not really help when you are already stressed. Some illnesses and certain medication can provoke an immune response which can result in a flare.

Is psoriasis contagious?

This can’t be stressed often enough: psoriasis is not contagious. It can’t be transmitted between two people and should be treated as such. In certain cases, like in people whose plaques are visible on their hands or face, psoriasis can cause social and work-related issues, due to the public being unaware of the cause of the condition.

What are the complications of psoriasis?

Psoriasis can range from very mild to severe. The percentage of patients who experience severe flares is about 5%. Despite it often being referred to as just a cosmetic problem, a condition called psoriatic arthritis can sometimes occur. Like with psoriasis, where an auto-immune response causes inflammation and skin cell growth, psoriatic arthritis happens when this inflammation occurs in joints. It is therefore very important to mention any joint pain or swelling to your doctor.

Is there a cure for psoriasis?

Unfortunately, psoriasis is a chronic long term condition with no cure so far. The therapy that you may be prescribed is usually symptomatic – which means you will take or apply medicine that will keep your symptoms under control. Since the plaques can be very scaly and thick, it is not uncommon that a doctor recommends a product for descaling the skin first, before being able to apply your medical cream. Removing scales also improves the looks of the affected area, leaving it red, but without the white or silver scales that could easily shed and leave traces all over your clothes.

For more information visit: http://www.papaa.org/

Featured image:

  • License: Creative Commons 3 – CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Creator: NY – http://nyphotographic.com/


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