Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, and is the result of the body's inflammatory processes affecting the skin. Symptoms can vary, but it mainly causes red patches of skin, covered in silvery flaking scales. The patches can be itchy or sore, and occur in varying sizes. When on the scalp, psoriasis can be mistaken for simple dandruff. The causes of psoriasis are not well understood, and there is no cure for it. The condition varies widely from patient to patient, and there is no best treatment for psoriasis, however, working with your doctor, its severity can often be controlled, and treatments can provide significant relief from symptoms.
Description and Symptoms of Psoriasis
There are various types of psoriasis, and the most common form is plaque psoriasis (also known as psoriasis vulgaris), and it constitutes roughly 85 to 90% of cases. Other types include guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic (not discussed here). Symptoms can range from mild occasional outbreaks to severe, life affecting forms.
Plaque psoriasis consists of thick, red patches punctuated by flaky scales. These can appear as localised spots or cover the entire body. The spots are most likely to be seen on elbows, knees, and the scalp. However, other commonly affected areas include the backs of the forearms, shins, and around the navel. Psoriasis can also affect the nails, causing pitting, whitening, discoloration, crumbling, and separation of the nail.
Psoriasis can provoke a form of arthritis. It has been reported that this occurs for about 30% of those affected by the illness. The symptoms typically occur later in the progression of the disease. It most commonly affects the joints of the fingers and toes.
Impact of Psoriasis on the Quality of Life
Psoriasis can have a negative impact on quality of life. The physical discomfort from itching and pain can interfere with sleep and basic hygiene. Moreover, the pain can make participation in athletic activities difficult.
Psoriasis often has a serious psychological impact. Flaky plaque on the scalp, with an appearance of dandruff, is often a cause of embarrassment. Individuals with psoriasis may feel self-conscious about their appearance and have a poor self-image. Although not contagious, others will often avoid both physical and social contact with those who suffer from it, leading to a sense of rejection, depression, and low self-esteem.
Common Psoriasis Triggers and Risk Factors
Psoriasis is generally believed to be a genetic disease triggered by environmental factors. It can sometimes be triggered by an injury, or by certain medications. Symptoms are often worse during cold weather months, and severity can be affected by diet. Other environmental factors they may trigger psoriasis can include stress, infection, smoking, and heavy alcohol consumption.
Treatment of Psoriasis
There are many treatments for psoriasis, and these have varying degrees of effectiveness. As each individual's case will be affected by personal risk factors and lifestyle choices, several approaches will likely be needed to achieve the best result. Treatments can be topical creams, UV light treatments, immune system suppression therapies, or some combination of these. Your doctor will work with you to manage and improve symptoms.