Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that manifests most commonly as red plaques covered with silvery scale. Skin cells usually regenerate every 26 to 30 days. For patients with psoriasis, this process is accelerated, and the skin regenerates every 3 to 4 days. Because the dead skin cells cannot be shed fast enough, they pile up on the surface of the skin, forming scales. The most commonly affected areas are the elbows, knees, scalp, torso, nails, genitals, palms and soles. This condition, which is not contagious, is more prevalent in Caucasians, and affects men and women equally.
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown. Genetics and environmental factors however, appear to play a role. There are many triggers that can cause flare-ups, including:
- Injury to the skin
- Alcohol consumption
- Reactions to certain medications
The most common symptoms are:
- Thick red plaques covered by silvery scales
- Bleeding if scales are scratched
- Thick yellowish nails that are brittle and damaged
- Itching and skin pain
A doctor will perform a physical examination and will make a diagnosis based on the appearance and distribution of the plaques. A skin sample may also be taken.
Some non-medicinal remedies may help manage symptoms and improve the appearance of the skin:
- Take baths regularly
- Apply moisturizer several times a day
- Use products that are gentle on the skin
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet
- Avoid triggers
While psoriasis cannot be cured, it can be managed through adequate drug therapy. It is an unpredictable disease that comes and goes, and that is characterized by cycles of flare-ups and remissions. There are many treatments, including topical medications that are applied on the skin, exposure to ultraviolet light (phototherapy), and systemic treatments (taken orally or given as injections).
For more information:
Canadian Association of Psoriasis Patients