Psoriatic disease – most often called psoriasis – is a common autoimmune condition that usually causes the skin to form easily identifiable patches of dry and scaly skin.
Psoriasis also causes problems beneath the skin, and can sometimes manifest with other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and diabetes.
As a chronic disease, the symptoms of psoriasis may appear and disappear many times in a person’s life. The discolored lesions sometimes last only a few days. Sometimes they last a month or more. Dormant periods can be similarly sporadic.
Because it is so common, it is likely that you know someone who has psoriasis. You may even suffer yourself. Understanding psoriasis makes it easier to identify and treat. This post summarizes the key components of what we know about the disease.
The Cause of Psoriasis
Like many ailments, we know more about the treatment of the disease than the cause. One thing we do know is that psoriasis is not contagious. You cannot catch it from someone else. Doctors believe that it can be inherited genetically, but that it must be “activated” by some unknown trigger.
The medical community has identified over 25 human genes that may be the causes of psoriasis. One or more of them could be the true culprits. The idea goes like this: a person possessing the problematic gene is susceptible to some internal or environmental trigger. When that (still unidentified) trigger appears, so do the telltale patches that we associate with psoriasis.
While the general process is largely agreed upon, the doctors and scientists who study psoriatic disease still have a lot to learn. Here are five of the key things they already know about psoriasis.
#1. There Are 6 Major Treatment Options for Psoriasis
Doctors don’t need to know what causes psoriasis to know how to treat its symptoms. Today, there are six primary types of treatment to help psoriasis sufferers:
- Topical – Topical medications include lotions, creams, ointments, foams, shampoos and oils/lotions. Usually they are the first thing your doctor will suggest.
- Oral – specific pills reduce inflammation and redness.
- Systemic – “whole body” treatment that boosts the immune system overall.
- Biologic – injectable medicines created using proteins from human genes. Generally, a last resort.
- Light therapy – ultraviolet light can reduce flareups when administered medically.
- Alternative – non-medicinal treatments, such as yoga, nutritional improvements, and general lifestyle changes may have a positive effect.
#2. There Are 5 Types of Psoriasis
The five subsets of psoriasis each have their own appearance and symptoms. As a result, they may also require different methods of treatment.
The five subsets are as follows:
- Plaque psoriasis – characterized by “plaques” (a sort of painful, itchy lesion) on the back, scalp, knees, and elbows. Plaque psoriasis is the most common form.
- Guttate psoriasis – marked by small red dots, rather than plaque-style lesions. There is a known connection between strep infections from early childhood and the eventual development of Guttate psoriasis.
Inverse psoriasis – rarely manifests by itself. Instead, it usually shows up when other forms of psoriasis are present. Its appearance it blotchy. Inverse psoriasis has a tendency to appear in “foldable” parts of the body, so it is often seen around the groin, behind the knees, and under the armpits.
Pustular psoriasis – characterized by pustules that are similar to whitehead pimples. Raised above the skin, and containing only white blood cells, some sufferers find this form particularly concerning. Like the other subsets, however, it is neither infectious nor contagious.
Erythrodermic psoriasis – only three in one hundred psoriasis sufferers contract this severe form of psoriasis. Similar to plaque psoriasis, it manifests with large red patches of itchy, scaly skin. Unlike that more common form, however, the patches caused by erythrodermic psoriasis may fall from the body.
#3. Stress Correlates with Psoriatic Flareups
We have known for some time that stress can induce psoriatic flareups. Perhaps the most public example is former American Olympian Dara Torres. Now 51, Torres swam in five non-consecutive Summer Games between 1984 and 2008. In all, she has won a dozen Olympic medals.
For a professional athlete, the Olympics are the highest stage. Because they only happen every four years, their make-or-break nature brings incredible stress. Back in the 1990s, Torres noticed the correlation on her own body.
When red, itchy patches began to appear during her heaviest training sessions, Torres saw her team doctor. Her doctors knew then, as we know now, that stress reduction has a big impact on symptom relief.
Healthy forms of stress relief can mitigate the symptoms. Torres herself, has remarked that “because stress is a major trigger of my patches, to this day, whenever I feel my stress levels rise, I try to exercise more, take deep breaths, and do anything possible to stay relaxed.”
#4. Every Case Appears Differently
Every human body is unique. That means that patches, lesions, blotches, and pustules appear different from one person to another. As a result, diagnosis psoriasis isn’t as easy as looking at a few images online.
Dermatologists, experts in skin conditions, can usually make the definitive diagnosis, but doing so requires more than a glance. A discussion about the frequency, severity, and length of outbreaks is often required to shed light on the situation.
#5. Psoriasis Attacks the Body’s Largest Organ
The skin is the canvas of vanity. For that reason, skin conditions are often stigmatized, forcing some patients to hide their flareups.
It would be better for patients to stop viewing psoriasis as an impediment to their beauty and to start viewing it as an attack on their organs. The skin is an organ, just like your heart or lungs. In fact, it’s the biggest one you’ve got!
Would you let disease ravage your heart without seeking treatment? Then why would you treat your skin differently?
Although the treatments for psoriatic symptoms get better all the time, there is still no cure. Until that day, use what you’ve learned here to help you identify, empathize, and maybe even care for the psoriasis sufferers in your own life.
DISCLAIMER: This article was prepared for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information in this article as a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, treatment, advice, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, treatment, or diagnosis. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.