August is National Psoriasis (pronounced “suh-RY-uh-sus”) Awareness Month. Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease that causes painful scaling, itching and inflammation. It happens when skill cells grow too quickly. Normally, our skin cells grow slowly and flake off every four weeks allowing room for new skin cells to take their place. However, those suffering from psoriasis experience a rapid skin cell growth (just a few days) leading to patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body and is often associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and depression.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease meaning the immune system overreacts and causes inflammation. While it is not contagious, it can run in families. Psoriasis can be embarrassing, but with treatment can be controlled. Treatment includes keeping skin moist with lotions and creams as well as medication. Psoriasis can come and is often triggered by stress, alcohol, tobacco and overexposure to sunlight. Avoiding triggers is crucial to successful treatment.
Types of Psoriasis
There are five different types of psoriasis – plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic psoriasis. According to webmd.com, plaque psoriasis is the most common. It is known for causing raised, red, itchy bumps with gray scales. While it can appear anywhere on the body, it is usually found on the elbows, knees and scalp and can last for years. Guttate psoriasis appears suddenly during childhood and causes small, pinkish spots usually on the trunk, thighs or upper arms. It can be triggered by strep, stress or some drugs, including beta blockers. It usually dissipates within a few weeks.
Inverse psoriasis appears in the armpits, groin and under breasts and does not have scales. Instead, the lesions are bright red and shiny. Due to its location, sweating and yeast can make this type of psoriasis worse. Pustular psoriasis causes bumps that are surrounded by red skin and contain pus. It occurs mostly in adults and while it is uncommon, it can be very serious, so medical attention is necessary. The most serious type of psoriasis is erythrodermic – luckily, it is also the least common. It causes widespread, fiery red skin that may appear burned and can include an increase in heart rate or change in body temperature.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, half of people suffering from psoriasis experience changes in their nails. Issues range from losing nail plate cells to separation of the nail from the nail bed. Nail texture, shape and thickness can also be affected and discoloration is common. Treatment is difficult because medication can’t easily penetrate the nail bed. Steroids are often prescribed instead.
This condition is a form of arthritis that affects some people with psoriasis. It entails joint pain, stiffness and swelling and can affect any part of the body. There is no cure for psoriatic arthritis and treatment focuses on controlling the symptoms and preventing joint damage. Psoriatic arthritis can be disabling.