Psoriasis is a chronic disease that causes skin inflammation. It is a very common condition that usually develops between the ages of 15 and 25, though it can occur at any age. It is not contagious.
There are several types of psoriasis. The most common form is plaque psoriasis. The symptoms of the disease, which can be mild, moderate, or very severe, typically consist of the following:
- Red patches of skin covered with silvery scales
- Dry skin
- Red, itchy, or painful patches of skin
- Cracks in the skin that sometimes bleed
- Nail problems
- Joint pain or swelling
The lesions caused by psoriasis can appear anywhere on the body. However, they most often occur in the following areas:
- Lower back
Psoriasis usually occurs in cycles. This means that symptoms may improve for a period of time and then flare up again. However, symptoms can also remain stable for long periods.
Causes and triggers
Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease. Its characteristic skin lesions are caused by inflammation, but the exact cause of the inflammation is unknown. Psoriasis is not an infection and is therefore not contagious.
Certain factors increase the risk of developing psoriasis. These are a few examples:
- A family history of psoriasis
- Alcohol and tobacco consumption
Psoriasis symptoms can also be brought on by triggers such as the following:
- An infection
- Cold or dry weather
- A skin injury (e.g., sunburn, cut)
- Dry skin
- Certain medications
Psoriasis is a chronic disease, which means no treatment will cure it completely. However, treatment is available to control the symptoms. Depending on the severity of the disease, the symptoms can be treated using topical or oral medications. Phototherapy (exposure to ultraviolet light) is also used in some cases.
In addition, certain lifestyle changes are recommended to help alleviate psoriasis symptoms:
- Adopting a healthy and balanced diet
- Stopping or reducing alcohol consumption
- Taking care of your skin (e.g., keeping it hydrated, using gentle products)
- Quitting smoking
Most individuals with psoriasis have their symptoms under control and are able to live a normal life.
When should I see a health care professional?
Speak to your health care provider if you develop psoriasis symptoms.
Psoriasis can be emotionally difficult and decrease a person's quality of life. Those affected may be at greater risk of anxiety or depression. Consult a health care professional if you are experiencing psychological distress.