Psoriasis is a non-contagious skin disease that affects approximately 2% of the U.S. population. It is characterized by thickened, red areas of skin covered with silvery scales. The extent of skin involvement can range from discrete, localized areas to generalized body involvement.
Psoriasis symptoms may vary by type. The most common, “plaque psoriasis,” is characterized by tiny red bumps that eventually turn into scales. Other types also exist, and may affect areas such as:
- Arms and elbows
- Legs and knees
- Genitals and groin
- Palms of the hands
- Soles of the feet
- Nails (pitting, loosening, and thickening may occur)
- Under the breasts
In up to 30% of psoriasis sufferers, symptoms may also manifest themselves as arthritis, with 5-10% of people showing some functional disability. Arthritis may improve as the psoriasis improves.
While the exact cause is unknown, Psoriasis can be hereditary. It is suspected that psoriasis may be caused by an abnormality in the functioning of T-Cells which causes a rapid skin regeneration rate.
Triggering factors may include:
- Cut and scratches
- Infections (strep and others)
- Medications (beta blockers, lithium, etc.)
- Seasonal changes
- Dry skin
There are numerous treatment options available. These vary by patient and the type of psoriasis. Common treatments include:
- Vitamin D
- Coal tar
- Ultraviolet light therapy
- Combination therapies
- Biologic agents (Alefacept, Etancercept, etc.)