What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder that causes red, scaly patches on the limbs, trunk, scalp, and other parts of the body. It is not contagious. The rash of psoriasis goes through cycles of improving and worsening. A period of worsening is called a “flare”. Psoriasis is most likely to occur in members of the same family. The cause is unknown. At times, psoriasis can be disfiguring, uncomfortable, and even painful.
Signs & Symptoms: Psoriasis appears as red, thickened areas with silvery scales, most often on the scalp, elbows, knees, legs, arms, genitals, nails, palms and lower back. Normally, the skin replaces itself in about 30 days, but in psoriasis, the process speeds up and the skin is replaced in 3-4 days. The skin cells multiply quickly and accumulate on the surface in silvery scales. This rapid growth is the result of a problem with the immune system. Psoriasis comes in many forms. Each differs in severity, duration, location, shape, and pattern of the scales. The most common form, called plaque psoriasis, begins with little red bumps. Gradually these become larger, and scales form.
Prevention: Identify and control triggers (such as stress, certain medications, alcohol and smoking) and take care of your skin with plenty of moisturizer. Avoid picking and sratching at the skin. People often notice new spots 10 to 14 days after the skin is cut, scratched, rubbed, or severly sunburned. Flare-ups sometimes occur in the winter, as a result of dry skin and lack of sunlight. The goal is to reduce inflammation and to control shedding of the skin. Moisturizing creams and lotions loosen scales and help control itching.
Treatment options: Although there is currently no cure for psoriasis, there are multiple psoriasis treatments available that can usually lead to a clearing of symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe medications to apply on the skin containing cortisone compounds, synthetic vitamin D analogues, retinoids (vitamin A derivative), tar, or anthralin. Other types of treatment include coal tar, Goeckerman treatment, light therapy, ultraviolet light B (UVB), PUVA, Excimer laser, methotrexate, cyclosporine, and biologic agents.
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