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Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a long-lasting skin disease that results in patches (called plaques) of thick, red skin covered with silvery scales. It occurs because cells in the outer layer of the skin multiply faster than normal, and pile up on the skin's surface. A normal skin cell matures in 28 to 30 days and is shed from the skin's surface unnoticed. But a psoriatic skin cell takes only 3 to 4 days to mature, and moves to the surface much earlier. The surplus growth of cells piles up and forms elevated red lesions that are a common symptom in psoriasis sufferers.

Diagnosis of Psoriasis

Doctors usually diagnose psoriasis after a careful examination of the skin. However, diagnosis may be difficult because psoriasis symptoms can be similar to those of other skin diseases. A pathologist may assist with diagnosis by conducting a biopsy: that is, examining a small skin sample under a microscope.

There are several forms of psoriasis. The most common form is plaque psoriasis (its scientific name is psoriasis vulgaris). In plaque psoriasis, lesions have a reddened base covered by silvery scales. Other forms of psoriasis include

  • Guttate psoriasis - Small, drop-like lesions appear on the trunk, limbs, and scalp. Guttate psoriasis is most often triggered by bacterial infections (for example, Streptococcus).
  • Pustular psoriasis - Blisters of noninfectious pus appear on the skin. Attacks of pustular psoriasis may be triggered by medications, infections, emotional stress, or exposure to certain chemicals. Pustular psoriasis may affect either small or large areas of the body.
  • Inverse psoriasis - Large, dry, smooth, vividly red plaques occur in the folds of the skin near the genitals, under the breasts, or in the armpits. Inverse psoriasis is related to increased sensitivity to friction and sweating and may be painful or itchy.
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis - Widespread reddening and scaling of the skin is often accompanied by itching or pain. Erythrodermic psoriasis may be precipitated by severe sunburn, use of oral steroids (such as cortisone), or a drug-related rash.

Who gets Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is linked to a genetic case, where a family association exists in one out of three cases. It often appears at between the ages of 15 and 35, but it can develop at any age. About 10 percent to 15 percent of those with psoriasis get it before age 10, and occasionally it appears in infancy. Psoriasis is not contagious, so one can "catch" it from another person.

What are the most irritating locations for Psoriasis?

Scalp: Scalp psoriasis occurs in at least half of all people with psoriasis. It can range from very mild with fine scaling to very severe with thick, crusted plaques.

Genitals: Genital psoriasis acts similar to other affected parts of the body. But because of the sensitivity of the skin, this type may require special considerations.

Hands and Feet: Pustular psoriasis can impair a person's ability to work. Plaque psoriasis can dry out the skin and cause cracking and bleeding.

Nails: Nail changes occur in about half of those with psoriasis and 80 percent of those with psoriatic arthritis. The nails may have small holes (pitting), a changed shape (deformation), separation from the skin (oncholyosis) and discoloration.