Psoriasis is a common disease affecting about 2-5% of the population. Psoriasis is a disease that most oftentimes is localized to the skin, but in up to 30% of patients can also affect the joints, a disease called psoriatic arthritis. On the skin, psoriatic lesions appear as red, scaling plaques that most often involve the elbows and knees, but commonly also exist on the trunk, arms, legs, and scalp. Psoriasis is not contagious, but in some families psoriasis may be hereditary.
Psoriasis can be a very uncomfortable disease when the skin becomes extremely itchy and painful. It can crack and even bleed. In some cases when the psoriasis is severe, the pain makes every day tasks unmanageable. Many psoriasis patients feel as though they never find relief from the discomfort. Psoriasis is also associated with a higher risk for heart disease, obesity, alcoholism, and depression.
While people with psoriasis can have good days and bad days, psoriasis is generally a chronic condition that requires at least some treatment for long periods of time until the disease goes into remission. Remission periods vary greatly. Some patients may need very limited ongoing care, while others may require more aggressive long-term management. Some things that cause psoriatic plaques to flare up include infection, reaction to medications, skin injury, stress, weather, and hormone fluctuations. Skin trauma – bites, bruises, cuts and scrapes, and other such traumas affecting the skin – can also cause flare-ups or stimulate the over-production of skin cells.
Despite the fact that psoriasis is one of the oldest recorded skin conditions, science is still figuring out the exact mechanisms involved in the risk factors for and development of disease. We know that psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are the result of an misregulated immune system causing changes in the skin and joints. Some families carry genes that increase the risk for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. While there is still no cure for psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, there are extremely effective treatments that limit disability and greatly improve patients’ quality of life.
At Medical Dermatology Specialists we encourage patients to join the National Psoriasis Foundation to become their own disease advocates. We treat patients comprehensively, encouraging screening for other diseases known to be of higher risk in those with psoriasis (such as cardiovascular disease), and we offer a wide array of therapeutic options including topical agents, oral systemic treatments, injection therapies, infusion therapies, and phototherapy.
For more information on psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, please visit the National Psoriasis Foundation.