What is psoriasis, and who gets it?

Chronic plaque psoriasis, the most common form of the condition, is readily identified by its heavily scaled and elevated red plaques covered with distinctive silver scales. However, although key features of psoriasis may be easy to identify, it still needs to be assessed by the family physician or skin specialist (dermatologist) in order to be properly diagnosed and treated.

Psoriasis occurs more commonly than you may think. It is estimated that between one and three percent of people worldwide are affected by this skin condition. Psoriasis affects men and women equally, regardless of socioeconomic status. It can develop at any age, but more commonly appears for the first time between the ages of 15 and 22 years or between the ages of 60 and 69 years. People with this condition may get it for just a few weeks (more common in a type of psoriasis called guttate psoriasis) or, in some, it may last a lifetime, going through periods of wax-and-wane.

Psoriasis is not contagious, which means that it will not spread from one person to another. It tends to run in families. A family history of psoriasis is found in 30% of patients, so if your mother or father has psoriasis, you will have a higher risk of developing it. However, a family history does not help to predict the age at which psoriasis first develops or other things such as how serious it is or the extent of skin involvement.

Although there is no cure for psoriasis, this condition can be well managed through various prevention and treatment measures as well as education and the support of caregivers, family and friends. One main goal of treatment is to slow down the abnormal growth rate of skin cells, which causes the characteristic red, scaly patches. Another important goal of treatment is to prevent flare-ups. But for most people, psoriasis is more emotionally damaging than physically disabling. If you have psoriasis, remember that you're not alone. Turn to friends and family for support, and talk to your doctor or pharmacist about psoriasis and which treatments are suitable for you.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Psoriasis-Back-to-the-Basics

Signs and symptoms of psoriasis

The hallmark feature of plaque psoriasis is red skin patches with a wavy border covered with clearly defined silvery scales. This occurs in psoriasis because the growth rate of skin cells is up to seven times more rapid than usual, but the removal rate does not occur any faster. As a result, growth of the outmost layer of skin (epidermis), which normally takes from 26 to 28 days to complete, now occurs within three days or so. Normally, skin cells take longer than three days to mature in order to produce an even and flattened appearance. Since this cannot be accomplished within three days, scaling of the skin results. In some cases, the scaly skin may become very thick, especially on the scalp area.

Psoriatic lesions are most commonly found on the following parts of the body:

  • front of the legs and knees
  • back of the arms
  • buttocks
  • scalp
  • ears
  • palms of the hands
  • soles of the feet

People with more widespread (extensive) psoriasis may also have lesions on the face and chest. For most people living with psoriasis, the emotional impact is far greater than the physical effects. In general, most psoriatic plaques do not cause bothersome symptoms. Some people with mild to moderate psoriasis will find the affected areas dry and itchy.

Factors that can trigger or worsen psoriasis include excessive alcohol intake, smoking, obesity, stress, viral or bacterial infections, certain medications and trauma.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Psoriasis-Back-to-the-Basics

Do's and don'ts of psoriasis management

Remember that psoriasis is a manageable skin condition. Although a conscientious effort is needed, you can help to keep psoriasis under control and prevent it from flaring up.

There are different things you can do to help you manage this condition. Here are just a few examples:

  • If you're planning to spend some time outdoors, use a suitable sunscreen to help keep the skin moist and well protected from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
  • Make sure to shower or bathe daily with warm water to help remove scales. If possible, avoid using harsh soaps on your skin.
  • Not all lesions are itchy, but if yours are, take the following steps to reduce dry skin and itchiness:
    • Keep your skin well moisturized.
    • Trim your fingernails regularly and keep them short but at a comfortable length.
    • Do not use fabric softener when washing or drying clothes.
    • When doing laundry, avoid using strong detergents that dry the skin.
    • Wear loose-fitting clothes made of cotton fabric.
    • Use a humidifier to help keep the skin moist.
  • Talk to your doctor and pharmacist about medications that can worsen or trigger psoriasis. Abruptly stopping certain medications such as corticosteroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, e.g., Aspirin®) can worsen psoriasis. Be sure to take your medications as directed by your doctor and pharmacist. Do not stop any medications on your own without consulting a health care professional.
  • Consider some lifestyle changes:
    • Some people find that an effective way to manage psoriasis is to lower their stress. Take some personal time to reacquaint yourself with your favorite hobbies or take that well-deserved vacation.
    • Limit your alcohol intake and quit smoking.
    • Exercise regularly and eat healthier - it goes a long way towards maintaining overall good health.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Psoriasis-Back-to-the-Basics

Questions you can expect from your doctor

Your first visit to a dermatologist can be both frustrating and relieving. It may be frustrating to recap all the unsuccessful steps you have taken to control your psoriasis flare-ups, but it will be a relief to know that experts in the field can present you with a full range of treatment options. Your dermatologist will also advise you of the potential factors that may trigger your psoriasis or make it worse.

Your dermatologist will work with you to unravel the full clinical and family history of your condition. It is important to know if your parents or other relatives have psoriasis, when your psoriasis symptoms first appeared, and which parts of your body are affected.

Other questions you can expect:

  • Are your psoriasis plaques itchy?
  • Does psoriasis negatively affect your quality of life?
  • Are you depressed?
  • What medications, if any, have you tried in the past?
  • Which medication was the most effective?
  • Which medications have not worked at all?
  • How do you feel about messy creams and ointments?
  • How does your condition react to sunlight?
  • Do you experience any joint pain?

Answers to these and other questions will help your dermatologist determine what type of psoriasis you have and the best course of treatment. Feel free to raise any other concerns or questions you have.

Maintaining a positive attitude will help you follow the treatment plan. The emotional support of family and friends is also very important. You may wish to become a member of a psoriasis support group. Please visit the Psoriasis Society of Canada website, www.psoriasissociety.org, for more information.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Psoriasis-Back-to-the-Basics