- 28 Mar, 2017
- Skin disorder Solutions
Psoriasis is a common skin disease that affects the life cycle of skin cells. Normally, new cells take about a month to move from the lowest skin layer where they're produced, to the outermost layer where they die and flake off. With psoriasis, the entire life cycle takes only days. As a result, cells build up rapidly, forming thick silvery scales and itchy, dry, red patches that are sometimes painful.
Psoriasis is a persistent, long-lasting (chronic) disease. You may have periods when your psoriasis symptoms improve or go into remission alternating with times your psoriasis becomes worse.
Psoriasis symptoms can vary from person to person but may include one or more of the following:
• Red patches of skin covered with silvery scales
• Small scaling spots (commonly seen in children)
• Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
• Itching, burning or soreness
• Thickened, pitted or ridged nails
• Swollen and stiff joints
Psoriasis patches can range from a few spots of dandruff-like scaling to major eruptions that cover large areas. Mild cases of psoriasis may be a nuisance. But more severe cases can be painful, disfiguring and disabling.
Most types of psoriasis go through cycles, flaring for a few weeks or months, then subsiding for a time or even going into complete remission. In most cases, however, the disease eventually returns.
The cause of psoriasis is related to the immune system, and more specifically, a type of white blood cell called a T lymphocyte or T cell. Normally, T cells travel throughout the body to detect and fight off foreign substances, such as viruses or bacteria. In people with psoriasis, however, the T cells attack healthy skin cells by mistake as if to heal a wound or to fight an infection.
Overactive T cells trigger other immune responses that cause an increased production of both healthy skin cells and more T cells. What results is an ongoing cycle in which new skin cells move to the outermost layer of skin too quickly — in days rather than weeks. Dead skin and white blood cells can't slough off quickly enough and build up in thick, scaly patches on the skin's surface. This usually doesn't stop unless treatment interrupts the cycle.
Just what causes T cells to malfunction in people with psoriasis isn't entirely clear, although researchers think genetic and environmental factors both play a role.
Perhaps the most significant risk factor for psoriasis is having a family history of the disease. About one in three people with psoriasis has a close relative who also has the condition. On the other hand, roughly the same proportion of people carries genes that have been linked to psoriasis yet never develop skin problems, indicating just how complex and perplexing psoriasis is.
Depending on the type and location of the psoriasis and how widespread the disease is, psoriasis can cause complications. These include:
• Severe itching, which can lead to thickened skin and bacterial skin infections
• Fluid and electrolyte imbalance in the case of severe pustular psoriasis
• Low self-esteem
In addition, psoriatic arthritis can be debilitating and painful, making it difficult to go about your daily routine. Despite medications, psoriatic arthritis can cause erosion in your joints.
Psoriasis treatments aim to interrupt the cycle that causes an increased production of skin cells, thereby reducing inflammation and plaque formation. Other treatments, especially those you apply to your skin (topical treatments), help remove scale and smooth the skin.
At EMC our doctors choose the suitable treatments based on the type and severity of psoriasis and the areas of skin affected.
In spite of a wide range of options, psoriasis treatment can be challenging. The disease is unpredictable, going through cycles of improvement and worsening seemingly at whim. Effects of psoriasis treatments also can be unpredictable; what works well for one person might be ineffective for someone else. Your skin can also become resistant to various treatments over time, and the most potent psoriasis treatments can have serious side effects.