August 12, 2010 – Psoriasis is a common and chronic skin disorder.
Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of psoriasis and is characterized by red skin covered with silvery scales and inflammation. Patches of circular to oval shaped red plaques that itch or burn are typical of plaque psoriasis. The patches are usually found on the arms, legs, trunk, or scalp but may be found on any part of the skin. The most typical areas are the knees and elbows.
Psoriasis is not contagious but can be inherited. Research indicates that the disease may result from a disorder in the immune system.
There are factors that affect how long flares up last. This includes:
• Sun exposure
• HIV infection.
An individual with plaque psoriasis usually has patches of red, raised, scaly areas on the skin that may itch or burn. The patches are usually found on the knees, elbows, trunk, or scalp. Approximately, 9 out of 10 people with psoriasis have plaque psoriasis.
• Red color: The color of the affected skin is very distinctive. The rich, full red color is salmon colored. Sometimes the skin can have a blue tint when the psoriasis is on the legs.
• Scales: The scales are dry, thin, and silvery-white. The thickness of the scales may vary. When the scale is removed, the skin underneath looks smooth, red, and glossy. This shiny skin usually has small areas that bleed.
• Symmetry: Psoriatic plaques tend to appear on both sides of the body in the same places. For example, the psoriasis is usually on both knees or both elbows at the same time.
Other general symptoms of psoriasis include:
• Scalp: The scalp can have dry, scaly skin or crusted plaque areas. Sometimes psoriasis of the scalp is confused with seborrheic dermatitis. In seborrheic psoriasis, the scales are greasy looking, not dry.
• Nails: Nail changes are commonly observed in those with plaque psoriasis. The nails may have small indentations, ridges, or pits in them. The nails can be discolored or separate from the nail bed.
• Droplets on skin: Sometimes, the skin is red and looks like it has little drops on it.
• Pus on patches: Sometimes, the patches of dry, scaly skin can crack and have pus on top of them.
Psoriasis in children: Plaque psoriasis looks slightly different in children compared to adults. In children, the plaques are not as thick, and the affected skin is less scaly. Psoriasis may often appear in the diaper region in infancy and in flexural areas in children. The disease more commonly affects the face in children as compared to adults.
At times psoriasis can affect joints. The joint disease associated with psoriasis is referred to as psoriatic arthritis. Patients may have inflammation of any joints (arthritis), although the joints of the hands, knees, and ankles tend to be most commonly affected. Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory, destructive form of arthritis and is treated with medications to stop the disease progression.
The average age for onset of psoriatic arthritis is 30-40 years of age. In most cases, the skin symptoms occur before the onset of the arthritis.
The diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis is typically made by a physician examination, medical history, and relevant family history. Sometimes, lab tests and X-rays may be used to determine the severity of the disease
Is psoriasis curable?
No, psoriasis is not currently curable. However, it can go into remission and show no signs of disease. Ongoing research is actively making progress on finding better treatments and a possible cure in the future.
Is psoriasis contagious?
No. Research studies have not shown it to be contagious from person to person. You cannot catch it from anyone, and you cannot pass it to anyone else by skin-to-skin contact. You can directly touch someone with psoriasis every day and never catch the skin condition. However, it is hereditary.
There are many effective treatment choices for psoriasis. The best treatment is individually determined by the treating physician and depends, in part, on the type of disease, the severity, and the total body area involved.
For mild disease that involves only small areas of the body (like less than 10% of the total skin surface), topical (skin applied) creams, lotions, and sprays may be very effective and safe to use.