WASHINGTON, September 25, 2013 – Approximately 7.5 million people in the U.S. have psoriasis. It develops when an individual’s immune system sees normal skin cells as pathogens and then reacts by causing an overproduction of skin cells.
The condition flares up and calms down in an apparent response to stress and environmental factors, and there is no cure. About 30 percent of individuals with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis.
“Psoriasis is much more than a cosmetic concern; it is often painful, difficult to heal and can be disfiguring,” says dermatologist Dr. Julie Moore, Loyola University Health System, Chicago.
TYPES OF PSORIASIS
There are five main types of psoriasis: plaque, inverse, guttate, pustular, and erythrodermic. In addition, there are a smattering of subcategories depending on where the psoriasis outbreak is located on the body.
Plaque psoriasis, affecting 80 percent of psoriasis sufferers, is the most common type. It often erupts on the knees, elbows, scalp and lower back as thick red skin patches that frequently have a white or silver layer of scale.
Guttate psoriasis, the second most common form, will usually show up on a person’s limbs and torso, but sometimes on the face or scalp. This type of psoriasis manifests as small red spots on the skin, less thick than the plaque version. It often occurs during childhood or early adulthood.
Inverse or flexural psoriasis is bright red and typically shiny and smooth. It usually develops in skin-folds such as under breasts, in the groin area, or the armpits.
Pustular psoriasis looks as you might imagine it does, white pustules surrounded by reddened skin. Scaling may occur. The pus within the blisters in not infectious. Isolated areas of the body, such as the hands, can be affected or it may cover large areas of the body’s surface. There are three subtypes of pustular psoriasis reflecting variations in symptoms and their severity.
Erythrodermic psoriasis is the rarest type of this disease, and the most serious. It can affect large areas of the body and cause the skin to appear burned. This form of psoriasis is extremely painful and sometimes requires hospitalization.
SIX FACTS ABOUT PSORIASIS
- Psoriasis is not contagious; you cannot “catch it” from someone. The lesions, red patches of skin, and pustules are not infectious.
- Individuals with psoriasis cannot tolerate “live” vaccines such as the one for shingles, or the nasal flu vaccine. They should always talk to their dermatologist or doctor before getting vaccinated.
- Psoriasis can manifest anywhere on the body, even under finger or toenails (ouch). However, psoriasis does not always itch and does not always produce the typical telltale rash.
- Psoriasis can run in families. If both parents have it, their children have a 50 percent chance of also having symptoms. Children have a ten percent likelihood of developing psoriasis when one parent has it. A research study published in 2012 suggests a genetic skin defect might be the main culprit behind plaque psoriasis, and possibly other forms of the disease. More studies are needed to find out if the immune system is actually a secondary player and not the primary cause of psoriasis as earlier thought.
- Psoriasis is often the most difficult to treat when located on the hands or feet. This may be because the hands and feet are constantly in use and subject to friction caused by movement, clothing, the handling of objects, or being in constant contact with the environment.
- The sun’s ultraviolet rays can benefit irritated skin. “The sun is one of the best treatments for psoriasis, so in summer I encourage my patients to sit out on the deck and give their affected areas a good sunbath,” says Dr. Moore. “Thirty minutes is adequate to improve the skin; you do not need to sit out for hours.”
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