Psoriasis is an inflammatory autoimmune condition that manifests itself in the skin and joints. It affects at least 7.5 million Americans. The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown but is likely influenced by environmental and genetic factors. Approximately one third of those afflicted by psoriasis have a family member with the condition. It may appear at any age, and is found in all ethnic groups.
Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of skin manifestation. It produces patches of red, raised, scaly skin that may also be itchy or painful. Classic locations would be the elbows, knees and scalp, though nearly any area of the body may be affected. Guttate psoriasis is most common in childhood and young adulthood. It appears as scattered, scaly red dots and is known to appear after strep bacterial infections. When psoriasis appears in folds of skin in the underarms, crease of the leg, or crease of the buttock, it may have a smooth, pink appearance. This is called inverse psoriasis. Less common types of psoriasis would be pustular psoriasis, and erythrodermic psoriasis, which covers most of the body surface.
Psoriatic arthritis causes inflammation and pain in the joints. The risk of development of this form of psoriasis, in addition to the skin disease, is about 30% over an individual’s lifetime. It is important to treat this type of psoriasis as it can lead to permanent joint destruction, deformity, and disability. There is some overlap between treatments of skin psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, though a rheumatologist will commonly be involved in the treatment of psoriatic joint disease.
Currently, there is no cure for psoriasis, but there are many effective treatment options available, with many more in development. When a relatively small area of skin is involved, the condition can often be well managed with topical corticosteroids, topical vitamin D derivatives, injected corticosteroids, or Excimer laser. With increasing surface area, it may be necessary to consider UVB light therapy or systemic treatment options such as methotrexate, acitretin, cyclosporine, Otezla, or injectable biologics. With the most recent advances in medical treatment, psoriasis therapy is becoming safer and more effective. There is no reason why any individual should be forced to suffer with this embarrassing and uncomfortable disease.
For more information about psoriasis, you may visit the National Psoriasis Foundation website.