What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease caused by an overactive immune system that has a profound impact on health and life. It is a systemic disease that causes inflammation throughout the body. It is also a genetic disorder. Psoriasis affects more than 3% of the US adult population. The disease is cyclical with flares and remissions. Psoriasis usually begins between ages 15 and 25, affects both sexes, and people of all skin colors.

What are the types of psoriasis?

Plaque psoriasis is the most common type affecting more than 80% of people with psoriasis. It creates a rash of raised, thick, red, itchy patches of skin with silvery scales and is typically found on the knees, elbows, lower back and scalp. The plaques feel tight, burn, sting or itch, crust, may crack and bleed, and cause pain.

60% of people living with psoriasis develop scalp psoriasis. Facial psoriasis affects 30% people with psoriasis. Plaques can develop in the eyebrows, on the skin between the nose and upper lip and upper forehead. 50% of people living with psoriasis experience nail pitting.

Psoriasis causes systemic inflammation which increases the risk of developing mental disorders, especially depression; and other medical problems such as eye problems, mood changes, swollen and bleeding gums, abdominal pain, fever, Crohn’s disease, weight gain, fatigue, stiff joints and fluid retention.

Other types include:

  • Guttate psoriasis affects about 8% of people with psoriasis. Inflammation and infection cause tiny, red spots usually on the torso, arms and legs.
  • Pustular psoriasis affects about 3% of people with psoriasis. It creates pus-filled bumps surrounded by inflamed skin. It typically affects the hands and feet but can large areas of the body and can be life-threatening.
  • Inverse psoriasis affects about 15% of people living with psoriasis. It creates inflamed skin in body folds including under the arms, under the breasts, in the groin, inner thighs and buttocks.
  • Psoriatic arthritis affects about 30% of people with psoriasis. It attacks the fingers and toes causing tenderness, pain and swelling of the tendons and ligaments over the joint reducing range of motion. However, it can also affect the eyes; and causes nail pitting. It frequently develops between ages 30 and 50. Symptoms are similar to rheumatoid arthritis.

What causes psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a complex disease caused by a combination of genetics and an immune system disorder. An overactive immune system causes inflammation and signals T cells that fight infection to instead attack the skin cells. Sustained inflammation leads to uncontrolled growth of skin cells that results in thickened skin plaques. New skin cells are produced within days instead of weeks. Inflammation also affects other tissues. Psoriasis is triggered by external factors. Some common triggers are stress, skin injury, respiratory and skin infection, allergies, diet, some medications, cold dry weather, alcohol and tobacco use.

How is it diagnosed?

Dr. Anna Chacon can diagnose psoriasis based on clinical symptoms and family history. She will also conduct a full body examination to identify all affected areas. If she is concerned about infection, she may take small piece of skin and send it to a lab to confirm psoriasis.

How is psoriasis treated?

While there is no cure, but topical and systemic treatments can help manage the disease, reduce flareups and allow you to live a full and active life. Self-care treatments can ease symptom. Light therapy can slow the rate at which new skin cells are formed. Laser treatments can remove the red spots. No two people will respond to the same treatments. Dr. Chacon will work with you to identify triggers and treatments.

Contact him to schedule a consultation to learn about your condition and all available treatment options.

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