What is Psoriasis? Psoriasis (suh-RI-uh-sus) is a disease which affects the skin and joints. It commonly causes red scaly patches to appear on the skin.
The scaly patches caused by psoriasis, called psoriatic plaques, are areas of inflammation and excessive skin production. Skin rapidly accumulates at these sites and takes a silvery-white appearance. Plaques frequently occur on the skin of the elbows and knees, but can affect any area including the scalp and genitals. Psoriasis is hypothesized to be immune-mediated and is not contagious.
The symptoms of psoriasis can manifest in a variety of forms. Variants include plaque, pustular, guttate and flexural psoriasis.
Psoriasis affects both sexes equally and can occur at any age, although it most commonly appears for the first time between the ages of 15 and 25 years.
A diagnosis of psoriasis is usually based on the appearance of the skin. There are no special blood tests or diagnostic procedures for psoriasis. Sometimes a skin biopsy, or scraping, may be needed to rule out other disorders and to confirm the diagnosis.
The cause of psoriasis is not known, but it is believed to have a genetic component. Several factors are thought to aggravate psoriasis. These include stress, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking. Individuals with psoriasis may suffer from depression and loss of self-esteem.
Bath solutions and moisturizers help soothe affected skin and reduce the dryness which accompanies the build-up of skin on psoriatic plaques. Medicated creams and ointments applied directly to psoriatic plaques can help reduce inflammation, remove built-up scale, reduce skin turn over, and clear affected skin of plaques. Also daily, short, non-burning exposure to sunlight helped to clear or improve psoriasis.
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