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Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that affects about 2-3% of the population, which equates to millions of people worldwide. This condition causes skin cells to replicate more rapidly than normal and leads to buildup of skin cells, with development of thick, red, and scaly patches on the skin's surface. Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body, but is most common on the scalp, elbows, knees, and buttock. It is not contagious and rarely gets infected. While there is currently no cure for psoriasis, various treatment options are available to manage the symptoms effectively and improve the quality of life for those affected.
The most common signs of psoriasis include red, inflamed patches or plaques of skin with thick, silvery scales. Sometimes these areas may bleed. Not all psoriasis lesions have symptoms, but they can sometimes cause itching, burning, or discomfort in affected areas. The nails can also have changes due to the inflammation of psoriasis) and, in some cases, joints can have stiffness, swelling, and pain (psoriatic arthritis).
Psoriasis occurs when the immune system mistakenly targets the bodies own skin cells, causing an more rapid skin cell growth cycle. While the exact cause is unknown, several factors can contribute to the development of psoriasis, including genetic predisposition (it is common to see psoriasis run in families), immune system dysfunction, and environmental factors (infections, stress, skin injury, and certain medications can cause flares).
Diagnosing psoriasis typically involves a physical examination by a dermatologist. The doctor will carefully assess your skin's appearance, medical history, and family medical history to make a diagnosis. In some cases, a skin biopsy may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis.
Thankfully, there are multiple treatment options available to help control psoriasis and its symptoms. Treatments should help alleviate symptoms, reduce inflammation, and slow down skin cell growth. Prescription medications include topical creams or ointments (corticosteroids, vitamin D analogs, retinoids, calcineurin inhibitors, or other anti-inflammatory agents). Phototherapy, typically narrowband UVB therapy, can help control psoriasis when given under professional supervision. There are multiple systemic medications (pills and injections) that target different aspects of the immune system that are approved for moderate to severe psoriasis or difficult to control psoriasis.
Non-prescription treatments can also help, such as moisturizing regularly, using gentle, fragrance-free soaps, avoiding harsh chemicals, taking warm baths with added moisturizers and even having natural sunlight therapy (heliotherapy) if directed by your physician.
While there are good treatment options for psoriasis, there is no cure and treatments typically require consistent use and ongoing management to minimize flare-ups and maintain healthy skin. It can also be helpful to manage stress, protect your skin from trauma and injury, avoid triggers such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and certain medications, and maintain a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise.
Unfortunately, psoriasis cannot be prevented as it has genetic and immune system components. However, you can take steps to manage and reduce its impact on your life by following the strategies mentioned above.
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A board-certified Dermatologist is a medical doctor (MD or DO) that has completed 4 years of medical school as well as 1 year of internship and a minimum of 3 years of dermatology residency. They are the experts in over 3,000 conditions affecting hair, skin, and nails. They can see patients of all ages and are able to address medical, surgical, and cosmetic concerns.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin condition, and there is currently no known cure. However, it can often be effectively managed and controlled with various treatments, allowing individuals to achieve periods of remission and minimize symptoms.
Psoriasis can occur anywhere on the body, but it is most commonly found on the elbows, knees, scalp, lower back, and the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The location of psoriasis lesions can vary among individuals and may change over time.
Psoriasis itself is not contagious and cannot be spread from person to person through contact. However, psoriasis can appear on different areas of the body over time, affecting new skin regions, but this is not due to transmission to others.
Yes, in some cases, psoriasis can lead to hair loss, particularly when it affects the scalp and causes inflammation and scaling that can disrupt hair follicles. Hair loss associated with psoriasis is usually temporary, and regrowth typically occurs once the psoriasis is effectively treated and managed.
Psoriasis itself is not a life-threatening condition, but it is a chronic autoimmune disorder that can significantly affect a person's quality of life and mental well-being. However, severe cases of psoriasis may be associated with an increased risk of certain comorbidities, such as cardiovascular disease, which can potentially impact long-term health.