What is Psoriasis?
Until recently, psoriasis has been primarily seen and treated as a skin disease, it is not.
Based on the most current research and data, psoriasis is now understood as a non-contagious, chronic inflammatory auto immune whole life disease that manifests in the skin, joints and associated comorbities. These could be psoriatic arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, obesity, metabolic syndrome and other immune-related conditions such as Crohn’s disease and lymphoma. For more on information on comorbities associated with psoriasis please visit http://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/related-conditions.
Knowing that psoriasis in not a skin disease and being better informed about all of the effects of the disease on those living with psoriasis will lead patients, caregivers and health care professionals to better diagnosis, disease management and treatment outcomes.
Facts about Psoriasis
Psoriasis affects 1 million Canadians and 80 million people worldwide.
The most common form is plaque psoriasis, which affects approximately 90% of patients.
Psoriasis often causes as much disability as cancer, diabetes and other major medical diseases.
Up to 30% of patients with psoriasis have or will have arthritis and 5–10% may have some functional disability from arthritis of various joints. (CDA)
How Does Psoriasis Work?
Skin is an organ in its own and is part of a large organ system called the integumentary system, which also includes oil glands, sweat glands, hair and nails.
There are two main layers of skin: the epidermis and the dermis. The dermis is the bottom layer and the epidermis is the outer layer of skin. The deepest layer produces millions of new cells every day. The cells are pushed up toward the surface of the skin. They are reproducing every 3 to 6 days, instead of 28. This causes raised, scaly patches. And instead of being shed, the cells pile up and form red lesions covered by silvery scale.
Psoriasis has a genetic basis. Like other immune disorders—such as rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes—the risk of getting it increases if a close blood relative has it. If one of your parents has psoriasis, you stand a 10 percent to 25 percent chance of developing it. If both of them have it, your odds increase to 50 percent.
Where Does it Occur?
You’ll likely find psoriasis on your scalp, knees, elbows and torso. But it also can develop on your nails, hands, feet, genitals, buttocks and, rarely, your face. You may have noticed that psoriasis tends to wax and wane. Various things can cause psoriasis to worsen, but this varies from person to person. What might aggravate someone else’s psoriasis may have no effect on your condition. Triggers can include emotional stress, injury to the skin, infections and reactions to drugs. Even the weather, diet and allergies may be culprits.
Is It Painful?
It can be painful or burn. In some people, psoriasis can also itch.
How do I know if I have Psoriasis?
Sometimes it is not obvious! Some people had mistaken it with other skin disease:
- Fungal infection
- Mycosis fungoides
- Seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff)
There are a multitude of tests that can be done to make sure you have psoriasis.
- Your doctor will first ask you questions about your symptoms and health history.
- He will examine your skin, nails, scalp for signs of psoriasis.
- If it still isn’t clear, your doctor could perform a skin biopsy, do a joint aspiration test or take an x-ray.