What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that can affect the skin and joints. In the skin, psoriasis appears as a persistent red rash with thick white scales that are often tender and itchy. This condition can occur at any age. It can either be localized to a few areas of the body, such as the knees, elbows, genitals, buttocks, or scalp, or can be more widespread to cover larger areas of the torso, arms, and legs.
New research shows that people with psoriasis are also at increased risk for other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, liver disease, and depression. Consequently, patients need comprehensive health care to assess and manage their risk factors, as well as maintain long-term care of their skin.
What causes psoriasis?
The cause of psoriasis is not known. There is often a family history. The scalp, elbows, and knees are the most common sites, but almost any part of the skin can be affected. It is not contagious.
The condition usually begins in young adulthood, although it can start in childhood or first appear in old age. Psoriasis is unpredictable; patches may clear up by themselves and even disappear for months or years.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms commonly include:
- Red patches of skin covered with white, thick scales
- Itching (for some people)
- Small scaling spots (among children)
- Stiff or swollen joints, symptoms of arthritis
- Nail changes
How is psoriasis treated?
Treatments for psoriasis include topical creams and laser or light therapy. Topical treatments work better as combinations of different classes of medications, such as steroidal ointments, non-steroidal creams, vitamin D creams, and emollients.
Moderate-to-severe cases and psoriatic arthritis may require oral or injectable treatments to target different parts of the immune system.
Treatments for each patient depend on the surface area the psoriasis rash covers, the severity of symptoms, and a careful balance of the risk of side effects and patient health profile.