What is Psoriasis?
Dr. Renee Snyder and her team of board-certified Austin, TX dermatologists assist men and women with the treatment and ongoing management of psoriasis. This is a chronic skin condition that occurs when skin cells grow too rapidly. This causes flaky, red, silvery patches of skin that can become inflamed, itch, scale, and crust. Normal skin cells turn over and flake about once per month, or every 4 weeks. Sufferers of psoriasis have skin cells that build-up quickly and form what is known as plaques. They can range in size and location on the body, forming on the elbows, hands, knees, scalp, and lower back. There is no permanent cure for psoriasis, however, there are numerous treatments that can keep the condition from flaring up.
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What Causes Psoriasis?
The exact cause of psoriasis hasn’t been pinpointed by doctors. The overall thinking is that the immune system overreacts which causes inflammation as well as flaking of the skin. It’s also believed that psoriasis can be inherited. Approximately 1/3 of people who have psoriasis have one or more family members with the condition. Scientists believe that certain genes interact which leads to psoriasis. However, a patient must inherit the right combination of genes as well as be exposed to a trigger. Symptoms can appear after triggers such as a stressful event, taking certain medications, strep throat, cold, dry weather or a bad sunburn.
Types of Psoriasis
There are several different forms of psoriasis, including plaque psoriasis or psoriasis vulgaris, pustular psoriasis, guttate psoriasis, inverse psoriasis and erythrodermic psoriasis or exfoliative psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis is the most common. While most cases of psoriasis are considered mild, some are difficult to treat and can require multiple treatments throughout a patient’s life. It is also important to note that psoriasis isn’t contagious and can’t be spread from person to person. Once it is diagnosed, it is a matter of managing the symptoms so that flare-ups can be minimized.
Symptoms of Psoriasis
The most common symptoms associated with psoriasis include raised, bright red patches of skin that are covered with loose and silvery scales. Plaques can also appear in the same area on both sides of the body, such as on both knees and/or both elbows. The scalp can experience anything from mild scaling to areas of thick, crusted plaques. Itching is common before flare-ups especially when psoriatic patches appear in body folds such as under the buttocks or breasts. Tiny areas of skin bleeding can occur when scales are picked or scraped off. This is known as Auspitz’s sign. In addition, nails can appear pitted or discolored or even crumble and fall off. Some common symptoms associated with the varying types of psoriasis include:
- Guttate psoriasis: Common symptoms include small, red spots that can appear all over the skin and often appear after an illness.
- Pustular psoriasis: Common symptoms include red, swollen skin with pus-filled bumps that can cover the palms and soles and can be painful.
- Inverse psoriasis: Common symptoms include smooth, red patches of skin that appear raw-looking. Patches develop only where skin comes into contact with other skin such as the armpits or genitals.
- Erythrodermic psoriasis: Common symptoms include areas of skin that look burned and most, if not all, of the body turns bright red and the body can’t maintain a normal temperature. A person must seek medical care immediately since this condition can be life threatening.
How to Treat Psoriasis
While there is no cure for psoriasis, there are a variety of treatments available to treat the condition depending on the severity and type of psoriasis a patient has. Mild cases can be treated with prescription lotions, creams and ointments. When the scalp is affected, shampoos, sprays and oils can be used. Systemic medications are prescription drugs that are taken orally or by injection and work throughout the body. They are usually used for individuals with moderate to severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Biologic drugs, or "biologics," are usually prescribed for moderate to severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis that has not responded to other treatments. They are given by injection or intravenous (IV) infusion. Advancements in laser therapy have made huge improvements for many patients. Using phototherapy to expose a patient’s skin to special, ultraviolet light helps reduce symptoms, as well as helps the skin to look normal.
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Since psoriasis is not only painful, but can also be embarrassing, making it difficult for some patients to live their day-to-day lives, it is crucial for a patient to see a dermatologist to understand how to manage the condition. We invite you to call our dermatology office today and make an appointment for your thorough consultation.