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It’s estimated that over 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis. While many people have heard about psoriasis, most have no idea what it is. Since August is Psoriasis Awareness Month, Dr. Bernard Gasch, an expert and experienced dermatologist at the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery in Portland, Oregon takes a moment to discuss this widespread and sometimes debilitating skin condition.

What is Psoriasis?

Dr. Gasch describes psoriasis as a “sometimes hereditary autoimmune skin disorder which often results in thick red scaling plaques most commonly appearing on the elbows and knees. Depending on the type of psoriasis, however, the scalp, face, trunk, hands, feet, buttocks, skin folds, and genitals may also be affected. Sometimes these plaques are itchy, burning, and painful. Basically in psoriasis, false signals are being sent out by the immune system causing skin cell growth to speed up.”

What Can Cause Psoriasis Flare Ups?

Doctors consider psoriasis to be an incurable, chronic skin condition. Psoriasis is not contagious. Exact causes are unknown but there are immune system, genetic and environmental factors involved.

Dr. Beata Rydzik of Center for Dermatology states: “Known triggers include both emotional stress, infection (such as strep), injury to the skin, weather (cold, dry), certain kinds of medications (such as Lithium and some beta blockers).”

Should You See a Doctor for Psoriasis?

Psoriasis can have more severe implications. “Many times, psoriasis appears with other diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease,” says Dr. Gasch. “The National Psoriasis Foundation also estimates that almost 30 percent of people with psoriasis can develop psoriatic arthritis, which can cause swelling, stiffness, and joint pain.”

The mental effects of psoriasis on the patient are yet another one of the many aspects to consider when considering treatment, according to Dr. Gasch. “Most patients suffering from psoriasis feel self-conscious and embarrassed because of it. Patients need to be aware that even though there is no cure for their psoriasis, various treatment options exist which can control their psoriasis for months, years, or even permanently.”

How is Psoriasis Treated?

Dr. Rydzik elaborates on the approach her practice takes when it comes to treating psoriasis: “Since there are several forms of psoriasis, it is crucial that we treat each patient as a unique individual. Although there is no known cure, we make sure that patients understand that psoriasis can be managed.”

Mild cases can be treated with creams, ointments, and lotions. Shampoos, solutions, and sprays can be used for treatment on the scalp. Phototherapy (light) treatments are beneficial to many patients. If your psoriasis is more severe, we might prescribe oral medications or biologics which can greatly improve psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis research has led to new treatment options that allow patients clearer skin than ever before.

It’s important for psoriasis sufferers to know they’re not alone. “Many people live with psoriasis and symptoms can be relieved with professional help,” says Dr. Gasch, a board-certified dermatologist at the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery. “If you think you have psoriasis, I encourage you to see a board-certified dermatologist to learn about your treatment options.” Don’t suffer with psoriasis alone, contact our team at the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, to make an appointment today.