What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes inflamed, red and raised areas of the skin. These raised areas are medically known as plaques, and can be itchy and painful. The condition typically occurs on the scalp, knees, elbows and lower back.
What Causes Psoriasis?
Medical researchers have yet to discover the main cause of psoriasis. It may be a mix of genetic, immune and environmental factors. The condition is not contagious and can’t spread to someone who touches it, but it can be inherited.
The body naturally sheds old dead skin cells and replaces them with new ones. There is normally a balance in new and old skin cells, but with psoriasis, this process is irregular. The immune system attacks the skin as if it is unhealthy and needs repair. This triggers skin cells to grow at a rapid pace and stack up, resulting in raised, red patches. The buildup of dead skin causes plaques.
Sunburns, injury, some medication, infection, stress, alcohol and tobacco have been identified as potential irritation triggers.
Treatment depends on symptoms, age and general physical health. It also depends on the severity of the condition and the location of plaques.
Symptoms can be managed, but there is no cure. The goal of treatment is to moderate the accelerated skin growth and shedding of skin cells. Doctors may treat psoriasis though a combination of the treatments below:
- Ointment and cream to moisturize your skin
- Ultraviolet light therapy (phototherapy) in a medical office
- Timed phototherapy in outdoor sunlight
- Laser treatment
- Steroid cream
- Vitamin D cream
- Cream with salicylic acid
- Coal tar ointment or shampoo
- Anthralin, an anti-inflammatory medicine that treats the thicker patches of psoriasis
- Retinoid medicine in cream, ointment, or pills
- Medicines that suppress the immune system, such as cyclosporine or methotrexate
- Newer biologic medicines that are often injected
Talk with your physician about the potential risks and benefits of all treatments. Psoriasis can be managed by working with your dermatologist or healthcare provider to create a long-term treatment plan and self-care routine.