What Are the Main Causes of Psoriasis? And How Is It Treated?
Imagine wearing a turtleneck and long pants during the sticky summer heat of August. For millions of Americans with psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that affects the skin, the desire to cover up unsightly red patches outweighs the need for short sleeves and shorts.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a long-term, chronic skin disease with no cure. It causes painful, itchy, scaly patches of skin. While these patches can appear anywhere on the body, they’re most frequently seen on the elbows, knees, trunk and scalp.
The condition tends to go through cycles, flaring for a few weeks or months, then subsiding for a while. Common triggers in people with a genetic predisposition to psoriasis include infections, cuts or burns, and certain medications.
What Are the Main Causes of Psoriasis?
This occurs when skin cells pile up on the surface. Normally, skin cells begin growing deep in the skin, and after a month, they slowly rise to the surface. With psoriasis, these cells can rise in a few days, causing them to pile up on the surface.
This disease tends to run in families, so there appears to be a genetic component to it. Researchers also believe that psoriasis may be caused by a problem with the immune system, causing your body to “attack” healthy cells.
There are also certain triggers that can cause a flare up of the disease. Common triggers include:
- Certain medications
In certain cases, it has been linked to other health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and depression.
What Are the Symptoms of Psoriasis?
- Dry, cracked skin
- Stiff joints
- Swollen joints
- Itchy skin
- Red patches of skin with silvery scales
Keep in mind that psoriasis is not contagious, but it is a lifelong condition that requires consistent, controlled treatment from one of our Raleigh internal medicine physicians.
How Common Is Psoriasis?
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, the illness is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the U.S., affecting as many as 7.5 million Americans. An estimated 2 to 3 percent of people worldwide have psoriasis.
Psoriasis is not merely a cosmetic problem; nearly 60 percent of those with the disease say it is a large problem in their day-to-day lives.
The first sign is a rash that doesn’t go away after treatment with over-the-counter medications. At first glance, it may appear to be eczema, but there are some key differences.
What Is the Difference Between Psoriasis and Eczema?
First, psoriasis plaques are well defined, as opposed to eczema, which tends to have less definitive edges. Second, psoriasis is usually found in areas that are not typical of eczema. You might find it on your face, palms, fingernails, the soles of your feet, or even the inside of your mouth.
How Is Psoriasis Treated?
Only a physician, such as our internal medicine doctors in Raleigh, can accurately diagnose this disease, and often this involves examining a small sample of the skin tissue.
A wide variety of treatments are available, but the course of treatment depends upon the seriousness of the disease, the type and the size of the patches.
Treatment may include specialized creams or ointments to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system. Light therapy –including natural and artificial ultraviolet light—may also be a course of treatment.
Who Is at Risk of Developing Psoriasis?
Among racial groups, Caucasians are at higher risk of developing psoriasis; it occurs in about 2.5 percent of Caucasians as opposed to 1.3 percent of African Americans.
While it can develop at any age, it most often appears between the ages of 15 and 25.
Researchers believe there is a strong genetic aspect because one out of three people with the condition has a relative who also has psoriasis. In addition, if both parents have psoriasis, their child has a 50 percent chance of also developing the disease.
Those with HIV or those with compromised immune systems are more likely to develop psoriasis.
Children with recurring viral and bacterial infections—particularly strep throat—may be at an increased risk.
Because high levels of stress have a negative impact on the immune system, chronic stress may increase the chances of developing the condition as well.
Researchers also believe that smoking not only causes the disease to be more severe, but that it also may play a role in the initial development of the disease.
Although some may be at higher risk for psoriasis, anyone can get it. It may go away for a long period of time and then return.
Even Celebrities Have Struggled With Psoriasis
Many with psoriasis may be embarrassed by the patches, which can cover 80% of the body— but they are not alone. This common skin condition can affect anyone, even the rich and famous. Following are some celebrities who have struggled with the disease:
Anyone who watches Keeping Up with the Kardashians will remember Kim Kardashian’s struggle with the disease. Her mother, Kris Jenner, also had it. There’s a strong genetic component to the disease.
He wasn’t always “Feelin’ Groovy.” This musician, half of the legendary 60s duo Simon and Garfunkel, has struggled with psoriasis, even going as far as soaking in the Dead Sea to find relief.
English did much more than take the crown as “America’s Next Top Model” in 2006: She featured her untreated skin in a photoshoot to give hope and encouragement to others with psoriasis. English uses skin-clearing medication to keep her psoriasis under control.
Saturday Night Live fans will recognize comedian Jon Lovitz as the “pathological liar” character from the NBC comedy show, but when it comes to having this disease, Lovitz speaks nothing but the truth. At one point, lesions covered 75 percent of his body, forcing him to cover it with makeup (even on his elbows!) Now, he gives encouragement to those with the condition.
When she was six years old, she was called “scaly girl” because psoriasis covered 80 percent of her body. Medication and healthy lifestyle choices have helped this two-time Grammy winner, and now her skin has cleared (she has even done a magazine shoot in a bikini.)
Raleigh Medical Group’s Internal Medicine Physicians in Raleigh Can Provide Treatment You Need
Psoriasis is a painful, uncomfortable and often embarrassing skin disease. The key to proper treatment depends upon the type of psoriasis, the size of the patches, the extent of the illness, and the underlying cause.
You don’t have to live with issues surrounding psoriasis. Talk with one of our internal medicine physicians by scheduling an appointment, and discover why Raleigh and Triangle area residents have been trusting us with their care for more than 45 years.