What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a common inflammatory skin disease affecting 2% of the population. It occurs equally in men and women, can appear at any age, and tends to come and go unpredictably. It is not infectious, therefore, you cannot catch psoriasis from someone else. It does not scar the skin, although sometimes it can cause a temporary increase or reduction in skin pigmentation.
Although psoriasis is a long-term condition, many effective treatments are available to keep it under good control.
Psoriasis can affect the nails and the joints as well as the skin. About half of people with psoriasis have psoriasis affecting the nails.
For people with moderate to severe psoriasis about one in three will develop psoriatic arthritis at some time. Psoriatic arthritis produces swelling and stiffness in the joints or stiffness in the lower back and should be managed by a rheumatologist who works closely with your dermatologist and/or your GP.
Psoriasis, particularly moderate to severe psoriasis, is associated with an increased risk of anxiety and depression. Moderate to severe psoriasis increases the risk of heart disease and stroke and treatment of psoriasis may reduce this risk. Psoriasis can also be associated with an increased risk of harmful use of alcohol and with diabetes, obesity and venous thromboembolism.
What causes psoriasis?
Both inherited and environmental factors play a role in the development of psoriasis. Some people are more likely to develop psoriasis than others, particularly if someone in their family has psoriasis. Skin affected by psoriasis is red and scaly.
The outer layer of skin (the epidermis) contains skin cells which are continuously being replaced. This process normally takes between three and four weeks. In psoriasis, the rate of turnover is dramatically increased so that cells are formed and shed in as little as three or four days.
For many individuals factors such infections, stress, alcohol and/or smoking have a role triggering flares of psoriasis. Certain medications such as beta blockers (used to treat high blood pressure and angina), lithium and tablets used to treat malaria, can also cause psoriasis to flare.
The relationship between diet and psoriasis has not been fully established, but obesity is associated with psoriasis and exercise and losing weight can be beneficial.
How can psoriasis be treated?
Treatment of psoriasis depends upon your individual circumstances. It may be that you find that treatment applied to the surface of the skin (topical treatment) is sufficient to treat your psoriasis.
For people with more extensive or difficult to treat psoriasis, light treatment (phototherapy), tablet treatment or injection treatment may be required.
What can you do to help?
- Discuss your psoriasis and how it affects your life with your dermatologist and identify treatment goals.
- Manage your risk factors for heart disease and stroke with your primary care physician.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle: eat a balanced diet, try to lose weight if you are overweight and exercise regularly.
- Stop smoking.
- If you drink excessive alcohol, reducing your intake might be helpful.
- Reduce stress, where possible.
- If you have joint symptoms discuss with your dermatologist
Dr. Del Campo and Dr. Danny are experts in psoriasis and the many treatments available to patients. Make a consultation today for your personalized treatment. If you have any questions, call us at (773) 286-8111. Dr. Del Campo and Dr. Danny can be your psoriasis specialist today.