Did you know nearly 7.4 million people in the United States suffer from psoriasis? While it’s possible to develop psoriasis at any age, it is predominantly diagnosed in adults, with the average onset being between ages 15 and 35.
Unfortunately, having psoriasis also increases your risk of other medical issues. Around 33% of those with psoriasis will also develop psoriatic arthritis. If you have psoriasis, you are also at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and kidney disease.
Because of this, it’s important that you know the signs to look out for with psoriasis. In this article, we’re discussing everything you need to know about the condition and what to do if you’re diagnosed so you can avoid psoriasis flare-ups.
What is psoriasis?
An autoimmune condition that causes skin cells to rapidly build up, psoriasis will result in scaling on the skin’s surface. It’s very common for those suffering from psoriasis to experience inflammation and redness surrounding the scales.
Typically, scales from psoriasis (also known as psoriatic scales) appear white and silver in color and show up in thick, red patches which may crack and bleed.
For those without psoriasis, skin cells will grow far down in the skin and rise to the surface very slowly. However, for people with psoriasis, this is a sped-up process that causes an overproduction of cells.
Although psoriatic scales most commonly show up on joints (especially elbows and knees), it’s possible for them to develop on hands, feet, scalp, face and neck. In rare cases, they may appear around the nails, mouth and genital areas.
Symptoms of psoriasis
Symptoms of psoriasis may vary from person to person. For instance, some may experience a few flakes on their scalp or elbow while others find their entire body is covered in psoriatic scales.
However, there are some common symptoms of psoriasis that may help you identify the condition, including:
- Inflamed patches of skin that are red and raised
- Scales (or plaques) atop the red patches that are white or silver in color
- Dry skin that you may find cracks or bleeds
- Soreness surrounding the patches
- An itching or burning sensation surrounding the patches
- Painful, swollen joints
- Thick, pitted nails
It should be noted that not all people with psoriasis will experience every one of these symptoms—some may even experience a completely different set of symptoms if they have a unique form of psoriasis.
Is psoriasis contagious?
Unfortunately, many people are under the impression that psoriasis is contagious. That is not true. It is impossible to spread the condition from person to person, even if you’ve touched a psoriatic lesion.
What causes psoriasis?
Despite years of research, there is no hard and fast answer to what causes psoriasis. Fortunately, providers have been able to narrow down two key factors: genetics and the immune system.
In autoimmune conditions, the body starts to attack itself. Because psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, it causes white blood cells (also called T cells) to attack the skin cells by mistake.
For those who don’t have an autoimmune condition, invading bacteria and infections are attacked and destroyed by white blood cells. However, for those with psoriasis, the mistaken attack results in the body’s production of skin cells to ramp up too much, causing the cells to be pushed to the skin’s surface.
The other key factor in psoriasis is genetics. Some people who suffer from the condition have simply inherited genes that cause them to be more susceptible to develop psoriasis.
You are at a heightened risk of developing psoriasis if someone in your immediate family member has the condition. With that in mind, the risk of developing the condition due to genetics is very small, with only around 2-3% of those with the gene actually getting psoriasis.
Getting diagnosed with psoriasis
If you believe you have a symptom of psoriasis, it’s important that you see a provider who can provide you with a proper diagnosis. Because the symptoms of psoriasis are usually very easy to recognize, the condition can typically be diagnosed with a simple physical exam.
During your examination, it’s important that you share any concerns with your provider and fill him or her in on your family medical history, specifically anyone who suffers from the condition.
In some cases, your provider may want to perform a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. This will require them to take a small skin sample, which will then be sent to a lab to be further evaluated under a microscope. If your provider recommends a biopsy, it will most likely be performed in the office that same day.
Is there a treatment for psoriasis?
Sadly, there is no known cure for psoriasis; however, you can take action to help reduce inflammation and scales, remove plaques and slow down the growth of skin cells.
To help reduce mild to moderate psoriasis, your provider may prescribe a cream or ointment for you to use. Topical treatments are most commonly used for those with mild to moderate cases.
If you have moderate to severe psoriasis, or your body hasn’t responded well to other forms of treatment, your provider may recommend an oral or injected medication. These medications are usually only used for a short period of time since they can often have severe side effects.
Because sunlight kills the overactive white blood cells that cause the cells to grow so quickly, many people opt to use ultraviolet or natural light to treat their psoriasis. Light therapy can be used for all types of psoriasis, although it is recommended that those with moderate to severe psoriasis use a combination of treatments.
How to avoid psoriasis flare-ups
Although there is no cure for psoriasis, there are things you can do to keep flare-ups at bay. This will be key to helping you live a healthy, fulfilling life with the condition.
One of the best things you can do to prevent psoriatic flare-ups is to maintain a healthy diet and keep your weight under control. It’s recommended that those with psoriasis get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains and plants.
In order to minimize your inflammation, you should cut out dairy products, processed foods and refined sugars as much as possible.
Because stress is a well-known trigger for psoriasis, managing your stress levels is an important step in reducing flare-ups. To keep your stress levels under control, consider taking up yoga, medication or journaling and learn how to use breathing techniques.
Living with psoriasis can cause self-esteem issues as well as depression. Anytime new spots arise, it can be easy to let confidence take a backseat. If you’re struggling with emotional health due to psoriasis, you may want to consider finding someone to talk to. This could be a friend or family member or even a mental health experience. There are also groups for those living with psoriasis.
The best way to get your psoriasis under control is to talk with your provider. You’ll want to receive a proper diagnosis, including the exact type of psoriasis you may have, and walk through a treatment plan so you can get back to living a healthy life.
At CareNow®, we have more than 100 locations throughout the United States, all staffed with qualified physicians who are ready to serve you. We also offer a free Web Check-In® feature that allows you to check-in from the comfort of your home so you can avoid the waiting room.
Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.