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With August in our grasp, it is time to bring to light about a very uncomfortable disease that affects millions of people every day. Psoriasis. August is National Psoriasis Awareness Month, and we will be taking a closer look at this disease - what it is and how it can be treated.
Psoriasis is an immune-mediated disease that causes raised, red, and scaly patches to appear on the skin. Psoriasis typically affects areas such as, the outside of the elbows, knees, or scalp, but can appear on any location. Many have reported that Psoriasis brings uncomfortable itching, and a burning or stinging sensation.
While doctors and scientists are still investigating the exact cause of Psoriasis, they do know that the immune system and genetics play major roles in its development. In fact, scientists are still examining types of DNA samples in large families who have Psoriasis. Usually, there needs to be a "trigger" for psoriasis to flare up. The skin cells in people who have Psoriasis grow at an abnormally fast rate, which leads to the buildup of psoriasis lesions.
Psoriasis triggers are not universal. What may cause one person's psoriasis to become active, may not affect another. Examples of Psoriasis triggers include:
- Skin Injuries
- Certain Medications
- Infections (or anything that affects the Immune System)
Psoriasis does not discriminate between gender or race, and often develops between the ages of 15 to 35. Psoriasis can develop at any age, and approximately 10 to 15 percent of those with Psoriasis develop it before the age of 10. Though rare, infants have also been known to develop Psoriasis.
It is important to remember that Psoriasis is not contagious. It is not something that can be passed on from person to person, and Psoriasis lesions are not infectious.
Similar to other skin rashes, such as Eczema, there are no special blood tests or tools to diagnose Psoriasis. A Dermatologist - or a Family Care Physician - will examine the skin to determine if it is Psoriasis. They may also take a biopsy of the affected skin and examine it underneath a microscope. When biopsied, Psoriasis skin looks thicker and more inflamed compared to skin that is affected by Eczema.
There are five different types of Psoriasis: Plaque Psoriasis, Guttate, Inverse, Pustular, and Erythrodermic.
Plaque Psoriasis: The most common form of the disease and often appears as red, raised patches of skin that are covered with a silvery, white buildup of dead skin cells. These patches, or plaques, most often are present of the scalp, knees, elbows, and lower back. They are often itchy, painful, and are prone to cracking and bleeding.
Guttate: A form of Psoriasis that appears as small, dot-like lesions. Guttate Psoriasis often starts in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood, and can be triggered by a Strep infection. Approximately 10 percent of people who develop Psoriasis will develop this type, leaving it as the second most common form.
Inverse: Inverse Psoriasis appears as very red lesions in body folds, such as behind the knee, under the arm, or in the groin. It may appear smooth and shiny as well. Usually, people also have another type of Psoriasis on their body at the same time as Inverse.
Pustular: Is characterized by white pustules - noninfectious blisters - surrounded by red skin. The pus that is in the blisters is noninfectious, and consists of white blood cells. This type is not an infection and it is not contagious. Pustular Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body, but most often occurs on the hands or feet.
Erythrodermic: Is a particularly rare, but severe form of Psoriasis that can lead to widespread, fiery redness over most of the body. It can cause severe itching and pain, and can make the skin come off in layers. This type only occurs in 3% of people who have Psoriasis during their lifetime. It generally appears on people who have unstable plaque psoriasis. Note: Those who have an Erythrodermic Psoriasis flare should seek medical attention immediately, as this form of Psoriasis can be life-threatening.
Psoriasis can appear anywhere on the body, including: the eyelids, ears, mouth, lips, skin folds, hands, feet, and nails. The skin at each of these sites is different, and requires different treatments.
Most commonly, Psoriasis can appear on the following:
- Scalp: can be very mild, with slight, fine scaling. It can also be very severe with thick, crusted plaques covering the entire scalp. Psoriasis can extend beyond the hairline onto the forehead, the back of the neck, and around the ears.
- Face: most often affects the eyebrows, skin between the nose and upper lip, the upper forehead, and the hairline. Psoriasis on and around the face should be treated carefully because of the sensitivity of the skin.
- Hands, Feet, & Nails: Treat sudden flares of Psoriasis on the hands and feet promptly and carefully, as cracking, blisters, and swelling often accompany flares. Nail changes occur in up to 50% of people with Psoriasis, and at least 80% of people with Psoriatic Arthritis.
- Skin Folds: Inverse Psoriasis can occur in skin folds, such as underneath the arms, and underneath breasts. This form is frequently irritated by rubbing and sweating.
In all of these cases, Psoriasis can be mild, moderate or severe. The treatment options will depend on how severe the Psoriasis is. Severity is based on how much of the body is affected by the disease. The entire hand - including the palm, fingers and thumb - is equal to one percent of the body surface area.
However, the severity of Psoriasis is also measured by how Psoriasis affects a person's quality of life. For example, Psoriasis can have a serious impact on one's daily activities - especially if the Psoriasis is on the palms of the hands, or soles of the feet.
Determining the severity of Psoriasis is quite simple. Mild Psoriasis covers less than 3 percent of the body. Moderate Psoriasis covers between 3 and 10 percent of the body. Severe Psoriasis covers more than 10 percent of the body.
Treating Psoriasis is critical to maintaining one's overall health. The best way is to work with a doctor to find a treatment - or treatments - that reduce of eliminate your symptoms. There are many different treatment options, and what may work for one person with Psoriasis, may not work for another. It is always crucial to consult with a doctor before stopping or starting any treatment.
Some treatment options include:
- Biologics: Biologics are usually prescribed for moderate to severe Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis that has not responded to other treatments. They are given by injection, or through IV infusion.
- Systemics: Systemic medications are prescription drugs that are taken orally or by injection, and work throughout the body. They are used for individuals who have moderate to severe Psoriasis.
- Phototherapy: Or light therapy, involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light on a regular basis, and under medical supervision. Treatments are done in a doctor's office or Psoriasis clinic, or at home with a phototherapy unit.
- Oral Treatments: New oral treatments improve symptoms of Psoriatic disease by inhibiting specific molecules associated with inflammation. Unlike biologics - which come from living sources and must be administered by injection or infusion - these treatments can be effectively delivered as tablets, taken by mouth.
Ultimately, it is up to you and your physician to discuss the best and most effective treatments for your Psoriasis. Psoriatic disease is real and nothing to hide from. With the right treatment plan, you can be on your way to healing and resume your lifestyle.
Here at Mountainside Medical, we offer a wide variety of creams, lotions, and other treatment supplies for Psoriasis. Please visit our website at www.mountainside-medical.com or call 1-888-687-4334 to speak with one of our knowledgeable and friendly specialists for more information.