Psoriasis Causes, Symptoms and Treatments
Psoriasis is a skin condition that afflicts up to 2 percent of the American population. It is characterized by thick, flaky patches that can range in size from small to large, portions of the body. It is thought to be an autoimmune disorder that causes overgrowth of skin cells. Psoriasis is a chronic condition that requires accurate diagnosis and management.
Causes of Psoriasis
The exact cause of psoriasis has not been determined by medical researchers. It appears there is a genetic component to the disease, because it tends to run in families. Up to one-third of those who have psoriasis have a family member who also has it. It is thought to be an immune system disease in which the skin cells overproduce. The disease generally occurs in cold, dry weather. Injuries to the skin can initiate a problem with psoriasis, as well. Stress can initiate cases of psoriasis. Infections, such as strep throat, can sometimes start psoriasis. Some medications can also cause psoriasis, such as NSAIDs medications (aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen), beta-blockers and lithium. If you have psoriasis, you should tell your doctor about any medications you are taking.
Types of Psoriasis
Several different types of psoriasis can afflict the skin.The different types are distinguished by how it manifests on the skin, such as color, texture, location and whether pustules are present. Plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular and erythrodermic are just a few of the common types of psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis involves the typical overgrowth of skin cells that other types of psoriasis demonstrate, as well as joint pain and inflammation. Your physician will be able to determine which type of psoriasis you have and the best course of treatment.
Physicians can generally diagnose psoriasis by visual inspection of the skin patches. Sometimes, skin tests may be done to rule out fungus infections, allergies or other conditions. Psoriasis can occur on the scalp, neck, elbows, nails or other parts of the body.
Treating psoriasis generally involves using creams and ointments to moisturize the skin patches. Exposure to sunlight can be helpful in reducing the skin problems. Corticosteroids can help to reduce the inflammation of the skin patches. Tars, retinoids and vitamin D compounds can also be helpful. Light therapy of various types are also used to reduce symptoms. Medications such as methotrexate, a powerful anti-cancer drug, or cyclosporine may be prescribed.