Psoriasis is a condition that affects the skin. It occurs when skin cells multiply faster than usual. This excess of skin cells causes the formation of raised, red areas covered in white scales, typically on the elbows, knees, and scalp.
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When you have psoriasis, it’s like your skin cells can’t grow and reproduce fast enough. They grow about five times as fast as normal skin cells and reproduce up to ten times faster than normal cells. As a result, the old skin cells pile up.
What Causes Psoriasis?
Researchers aren’t sure what causes psoriasis. It’s likely a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some theories suggest that psoriasis may be triggered by signals from the immune system. The immune system mistakenly identifies a potential invader, and encourages inflammation, signalling to the skin cells to reproduce quickly.
Scientists have isolated approximately 25 genes that appear different in people who have been diagnosed with psoriasis. It make take more than a single gene to cause the disease, and scientists continue to try to isolate the primary genes involved in psoriasis.
Approximately 10% of all people have genes that make it possible for them to get psoriasis. But only 2-3% of all people actually experience the condition.
What Triggers Psoriasis?
Having the right combination of genes means that psoriasis can be activated by a trigger and flare up. Some common triggers include:
- Skin injuries. Cuts, scrapes, bug bites, bee stings, infections, sunburns, and even scratching too much can trigger psoriasis.
- Infections. Infections, such as strep throat, have been linked to a certain type of psoriasis. Children often contract strep throat before experiencing their first flare up of psoriasis symptoms. Other infections, such as the flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, ear aches, and tonsillitis can also trigger an outbreak.
- HIV. In the early stages of the disease, psoriasis may occur. With treatment, it usually clears up.
- Medication. Some types of medication can exacerbate psoriasis. These include:
- Lithium. Lithium is used to treat bipolar disorder and other forms of mental illness.
- Medication for high blood pressure and heart troubles. These include, beta blockers and ACE inhibitors. These medications can have an adverse affect on those who already have psoriasis and sometimes those who are getting it for the first time.
- Antimalarial medication. There are severeal drugs that are typically intended to help treat Malaria, but are also known to cause psoriasis to flare up.
- Inflammation. Some medications that are commonly used to treat inflammation can also trigger psoriasis outbreaks.
- Stress. Some research has suggested that psoriasis flare ups may be a response to emotional or psychological stressors, an immune system response that is highly similar to the response caused by infections and physical injuries.
- Weight. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to experience plaques in the folds and creases of their skin.
- Smoking. Smokers are twice as likely to get psoriasis. In addition, smokers who have a family history of psoriasis are nine times more likely to get the disease. Smoking may also make it more difficult for symptoms to improve.
Alcohol use. People who drink heavily, especially young men, are at an increased risk of developing psoriasis.
What are the Symptoms of Psoriasis?
Plaque psoriasis may cause one or more of the following symptoms. They include:
- Raised plaques of red skin. Skin is often covered in white- or silver-colored scales which may be loose or flaky. Areas of the plaques may become itchy and irritated; they may bleed or crack. In severe cases, plaques may cover large areas of the skin, sometimes merging into one another.
- Finger and toenail disorders. This may include discolored nails, pitted nails, or nails that crumble and detach from their beds.
- Plaques, crusts, or scales on the scalp.
In some cases, psoriasis is related to psoriatic arthritis. This condition, as the name suggests, affects the joints, causing pain and swelling. Approximately one in ten to one in three people who suffer from psoriasis also have psoriatic arthritis.
What Types of Psoriasis Exist?
There are other forms of psoriasis, though they are less common than plaque psoriasis. These include:
- Pustular psoriasis. Characterized by red, scaly skin and small pustules on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
- Guttate psoriasis. This form of psoriasis is most likely to begin during childhood or young adulthood. It consists of tiny, red spots on the torso and limbs and may be triggered by conditions such as tonsillitis and strep throat, medication such as beta-blockers, or skin injuries.
- Inverse psoriasis. A condition characterized by lesions that are bright red and shiny in appearance. These lesions appear in folds of skin, including the armpits, groin area, and under the breasts.
- Erythrodermic psoriasis. Characterized by intense redness in the skin, this condition also causes dead skin “scales” to shed in sheets. This form of psoriasis may be triggered by severe sunburns, infections, certain medications, and systemic psoriasis treatment.
What is it Like to Have Psoriasis?
People who have been diagnosed with psoriasis likely know that this condition is difficult to treat. Little is known about what causes psoriasis, and flare-ups often appear out of nowhere, with periods of remission in between. Though various types of treatment, including medication and therapy, exist, there are no known cures for the thick, red plaques of skin that characterize psoriasis.
The information on Dabbler.com shouldn’t be used to start using dietary supplements or vitamins, natural or herbal products, homeopathic medicine or any other discussed products prior to a consultation with a certified doctor or healthcare professional.
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