Psoriasis is a common immune-mediated systemic disease that is prone to relapse. Psoriasis is characterized by skin lesions, red, scaly patches, plaques and papules that tend to be quite itchy. The severity varies and may include only minor and localized patches or cover the complete body.
Psoriasis types and symptoms:
Psoriasis can be divided into five main types:
Psoriasis symptoms vary depending on the type, but all types of psoriasis share the following symptoms:
- inflamed areas of the skin, often raised and with a layer of silvery scales
- large patches that join together (in severe cases)
Plaque psoriasis is the most typical form and it manifests as white and red scaly patches on the top layer of the skin. The skin cells accumulate quickly at these locations and create a silvery appearance. It appears most often on the elbows, knees, scalp, palms of hands or soles of feet, even genital area, but any part of the body is susceptible to it.
Erythrodermic psoriasis is closely connected to plaque psoriasis and involves a widespread inflammation of the skin, often covering the whole body. It can be accompanied by swelling, severe itching and pain. It may follow plaque psoriasis after an abrupt withdrawal of glucocorticoids and it can become life threatening as the body loses its ability to control temperature and act as a barrier.
Pustular psoriasis appears in the form of raised bumps that are filled with non-infectious pus, with the skin under and around these pustules becoming red and tender. The most common occurrence areas are hands and feet, but it can appear on any part of the body. A rare form of this type, known as generalized pustular psoriasis, often appears during pregnancy but may be triggered by abrupt withdrawal of topical corticosteroid treatment, medications or hypocalcemia. It’s often accompanied by fever, nausea, muscle aches and elevated blood cell count, and requires hospitalization.
Inverse psoriasis takes on the form of smooth and inflamed patches of skin, that most often affect skin folds (armpits, genital area, or any other skin folds). It is believed that it’s triggered by infection, heat and trauma.
Guttate psoriasis is characterized by small, red or pink and scaly lesions, often resembling droplets. The most commonly affected areas include the torso, but the limbs and scalp may also be affected. The most common trigger is a streptococcal infection.
Psoriasis often affects fingernails and toenails too, and almost 30% of individuals affected by psoriasis also suffer from inflammation of the joints, which is known as psoriatic arthritis.
Causes of Psoriasis
The exact cause of psoriasis remains unknown. Some scientists think that it can be inherited, because it has been determined that it tends to run in families. It is believed that the immune system becomes alerted after being triggered and begins to attack the skin cells. Environmental factors are believed to be a trigger.
Treatment and Management Options
Unfortunately, psoriasis can’t be cured, but there are various treatment options that help alleviate the symptoms. Psoriasis has a high recurrence rate, which makes it difficult to treat the symptoms and live with it. Mild psoriasis is usually treated with topical agents, and phototherapy is often added for moderate psoriasis. Severe cases require systemic agents, and sometimes even surgery.
Individuals who suffer from psoriasis notice that it gets worse at times, especially in cold and dry climate or when they are under stress. Other things that affect flare-ups include infections, skin injury, taking certain medications (NSAIDs, beta blockers, lithium), sunlight overexposure, alcohol and smoking.