Psoriasis is a skin disease where the skin cells build up rapidly. These extra skin cells form the thickened red scaly skin patches seen on the skin that are itchy and sometimes painful. It is a non-contagious and chronic disease that comes and goes. It commonly affects the skin of the elbows, knees and scalp, but may be found on any part of the skin.
Causes and Risk Factors
The exact cause of psoriasis is not fully understood. It is thought to be related to an immune system problem where the body attacks itself. Normally, white blood cells attack invading microorganisms that cause infection, but in psoriasis, these white blood cells attack the skin cells by mistake. This attack causes overproduction of the skin cells too quickly. The new skin cells move to the skin surface and build up causing thick, scaly patches on the skin surface.
The risk factors are a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors. They include family history, infection, injury to the skin, stress, obesity, changes in season and certain medications.
Common symptoms of psoriasis are:
• Red patches on the skin.
• Thick, silvery scales on the red patches.
• Dry cracked skin that may bleed.
• Itching, burning sensations and soreness around the patches.
• Swollen, stiff and painful joints.
• Thickened and ridged nails.
Diagnosis is typically made from physical examination of the skin, relevant family history and medical history. If the symptoms are not clear or if your doctor wants to confirm the suspected diagnosis, a small sample of skin (skin biopsy) is obtained and taken to the laboratory for microscopic examination. The examination gives a diagnosis of psoriasis and rule out other possible disorders or infections.
Psoriasis has no cure. Treatment is aimed at reducing the scales, removing the patches and slowing the growth of skin cells. Treatment options include:
• Creams and ointments applied directly to the skin. They help in reducing mild to moderate psoriasis.
• Oral or injected medications for moderate to severe psoriasis and for those who do not respond to other treatment options.
• Avoid skin infections through hand washing, reducing exposure to the sick.
• Eating healthy especially green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, nuts.
• Protecting the skin from injuries, wearing protective clothing when doing work outdoors, applying sunscreen.