How psoriasis gets under your skin
November kicks off National Healthy Skin Month, and with winter fast approaching your attention naturally turns to your skin. If your skin is already in good condition, the usual suspects such as proper diet, plenty of water and sun protectant are great to maintain it. For those who suffer from severe skin conditions such as psoriasis, however, keeping your skin symptom-free may not be quite so easy.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis is the most common autoimmune disease in the United States. It affects as many as 7.5 million Americans. Psoriasis occurs when the immune system sends out defective signals that cause an overproduction of skin cells. This results in red, scaly patches of skin on the body that itch and bleed.
Dr. Heidi Nicola, internal medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group in Downers Grove, Ill., says that the patches of skin are often painful and extremely itchy, and when someone with psoriasis scratches the affected areas, they often get worse.
“Most patches of psoriasis occur on the elbows, knees and scalp, but they can appear anywhere,” she says. “And it is not contagious.”
Anyone can get psoriasis, but it usually occurs in adults, she says.
“It can affect all ages, but mainly those between the ages of 20 and 30 years old,” she says. “And can also happen later in life between 50 and 60 years old.”
What causes psoriasis?
Scientists believe that psoriasis has a genetic link, and that about 10 percent of the population has one or more genes that can cause psoriasis. However, only about 2 to 3 percent of the population develops the condition. People who suffer from psoriasis probably have a gene mutation and have experienced an environmental trigger that led to an outbreak.
Dr. Nicola says that some of the triggers for psoriasis breakouts include:
- Skin injury
Is there a treatment or cure for psoriasis?
There is currently no cure for psoriasis, but there are treatments that can be quite successful at preventing outbreaks and managing outbreaks when they do occur.
Dr. Nicola says that it should be treated with a multi-specialty approach, meaning multiple physicians may need to be involved to treat properly.
Treatments depend on factors like the severity of the psoriasis and the extent that the condition is affecting your life, she says. Types of treatments include:
- Topical creams and ointments
- Oral medications
- Alternative therapy
- Biologic drugs
Dr. Nicola recommends speaking with your physician if you suspect you may have symptoms of psoriasis.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.