What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a common and chronic condition that usually causes patches of itchy, scaly and sometimes inflamed skin. Although they can appear anywhere, these patches, called plaques, are most likely to crop up on your knees, elbows, hands, feet, scalp, or back. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the fingernails and toenails are also affected in about 50% of cases of active psoriasis.
What Are The Symptoms?
The symptoms of psoriasis can vary a great deal depending on its severity, ranging from mildly annoying to truly debilitating.
Psoriasis of the skin or nails may look like a rash or fungus, but you can’t catch psoriasis from another person. You also can’t give it to anyone else or spread it from one part of your body to another by touch. Experts now know that if psoriasis runs in your family, your chances of developing it are higher. While the itchiness and pain can be unpleasant, some of the worst effects of psoriasis can be emotional. People with severe psoriasis sometimes are so overwhelmed by their condition and self-conscious of their appearance that they feel isolated and depressed.
What Causes Psoriasis?
Normally, skin cells are constantly being formed deep beneath the surface of your skin. Over about a month, these cells are pushed up to the surface. This is called cell turnover. The cells eventually die and flake off, revealing new skin cells. In people with psoriasis, the skin cells grow too quickly. Cell turnover can happen in a matter of days. Layers of skin build up, forming a whitish, flaky crust. Blood vessels increase flow in an attempt to nourish this skin, which leads to redness and swelling. The classic symptoms of psoriasis are reddened, inflamed skin with a whitish, flaky layer of dead cells on top.
What Are the Different Types of Psoriasis?
There are several different types of psoriasis. About 90% of all cases of psoriasis are plaque psoriasis, but other varieties include:
- Guttate Psoriasis – This form of psoriasis usually affects children, teenagers, and young adults. It often appears after a bacterial infection, such as strep throat. Typical symptoms are red, scaly, raindrop-shaped spots on the skin, usually over the abdomen, arms, legs and scalp. It can often clear up on its own without treatment.
- Pustular psoriasis – The typical symptoms of pustular psoriasis are pus-filled blisters on the skin. The blisters usually dry up, turn brown, become scaly and peel off. The lesions usually occur on the hands and feet.
- Erythrodermic psoriasis – Symptoms include red and scaly skin over large areas of the body. This condition can evolve from other forms of psoriasis or be triggered by psoriasis treatment. It can also be triggered by withdrawal from drugs such as corticosteroids (often taken for diseases such as asthma).
- Inverse psoriasis – In people with this condition, dry and bright red patches appear in folds of skin, for instance under the breasts, in the armpits, or on the genitals. This type of psoriasis can be exacerbated by obesity.