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The Story of Psoriasis

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The Story of Psoriasis

It only looks like a skin condition

Psoriasis is a chronic, autoimmune disease that appears on the skin. It occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells. It is not contagious.

There are five types of psoriasis. The most common form, plaque psoriasis, appears as raised, red patches covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells. Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body and is associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and depression.

Psoriasis is the most common autoimmune disease in the U.S., with as many as 7.5 million Americans suffering from it.

Where on the Body Can Psoriasis Appear?

Psoriasis can show up anywhere—the eyelids, ears, mouth and lips, skin folds, hands and feet, and nails. The skin at each of these sites is different and requires different treatments. In addition, psoriasis can vary widely among individuals and in its response to treatment. Light therapy or topical treatments are often used when psoriasis is limited to a specific part of the body. However, doctors may prescribe oral or injectable drugs if the psoriasis greatly affects a person’s quality of life. Effective treatments are available, no matter where your psoriasis is located.

Triggers

Scientists believe that at least 10 percent of the general population inherits one or more of the genes that create a predisposition to psoriasis. However, only 2 percent to 3 percent of the population develops the disease. Researchers believe that for a person to develop psoriasis, the individual must have a combination of the genes that cause the disease and be exposed to specific external factors known as “triggers.”

Stress can cause psoriasis to flare for the first time or aggravate existing psoriasis. Relaxation and stress reduction may help prevent stress from impacting psoriasis.

Injury to skin. Psoriasis can appear in areas of the skin that have been injured or traumatized. This is called the Koebner phenomenon. Vaccinations, sunburns and scratches can all trigger a Koebner response.

Certain medications are associated with triggering psoriasis, including:

Antimalarials
Inderal
Indomethacin
Lithium
Quinidine
Treatments

Treating psoriasis is critical to good disease management and overall health. Work with your doctor to find a treatment—or treatments—that reduce or eliminate your symptoms. What works for one person with psoriasis might not work for another. So it’s important to know the different treatment options (including oral medications, injections, light therapy, or topical creams) and keep trying until you find the right regimen for you.

Life With Psoriasis

Living with psoriasis has unique challenges. The good news is health-care providers are becoming more aware of the impact psoriasis can have on a person’s quality of life. Researchers are focused more now than ever on finding solutions to those challenges, which include stress, itch and depression.

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National Psoriasis Foundation