Psoriasis: 5 Things to Know

Psoriasis, which is technically called “psoriatic disease,” manifests as a skin condition which is actually just one of the most common symptoms of an underlying autoimmune disease. In addition to the visible skin changes, psoriatic disease can have some other equally devastating symptoms, including diabetes and heart disease.

In this post, learn more about psoriasis, including 5 critical things you need to know right now.

Psoriasis Explained

While much is known about alleviating the symptoms of psoriasis, there is still much to learn about what causes psoriasis in the first place. What is known is that psoriasis has both genetic and immune system origins.

It is thought that psoriasis is a condition that gets triggered by something else — and that something is what is not yet well understood. When the trigger(s) appear, the skin lesions known as psoriasis will flare up and appear. To date, scientists have identified more than 25 genes that may be responsible for causing and/or triggering psoriasis. More research is needed to narrow down which genes are the primary culprits.

5 Facts You Need to Know About Psoriasis

Whether you have a family history of psoriasis, you are currently diagnosed with psoriasis or someone you care about is struggling with the disease, it can be helpful to learn as much as you can about risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for psoriasis to help yourself and loved ones.

Here are 5 key facts to know about psoriasis that can help you learn more and help you educate others as well.

Fact 1: Psoriasis can take on 5 different forms.

There are 5 major types of psoriasis. Each type may look different in its symptoms and require different treatments.

  • Type 1: Plaque psoriasis. This is the most common psoriasis type. The itchy, painful lesions are called “plaques” and are most frequently seen on the lower back, elbows, knees and scalp areas.
  • Type 2: Guttate psoriasis. The lesions that appear with guttate psoriasis look more like small red dots. It is known that there is a link between early childhood strep infections and development of guttate-type psoriasis.
  • Type 3: Inverse psoriasis. Inverse psoriasis often co-occurs with one or more additional types of psoriasis. It looks more like a large red blotch and usually occurs in an area of the body such as the groin, armpit or behind the knee.
  • Type 4: Pustular psoriasis. The pustules referred to in this type of psoriasis are made up entirely of raised patches of white blood cells. It can occur anywhere on the body.
  • Type 5: Erythrodermic psoriasis. Only approximately 3 percent of psoriasis sufferers develop this extremely severe form of the disease, where red splotches occur all over the body and the skin may peel off in larger patches. It is thought this is a very severe form of plaque psoriasis.

Fact 2: Stress is a huge known trigger.

Olympic swimmer Dara Torres is just one of many Americans suffering from psoriasis. But she is a textbook case of the known link between stress and psoriasis flare-ups.

As such, taking a proactive approach towards reducing stress can be helpful in minimizing symptoms, including pain, itching and joint stiffness (associated with a related condition called psoriatic arthritis). This includes minimizing certain “traditional” stress remedies such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and using drugs. These practices can make psoriasis worse.

Fact 3: No two cases of psoriasis ever look exactly alike.

This one fact makes obtaining an accurate diagnosis of psoriasis just that much harder. As well, since there is no single definitive medical test that can pinpoint psoriasis, it can be hard to know how to proceed when the skin flare-ups first begin.

Typically, a dermatologist will be the one to first diagnosis psoriasis, which is currently achieved based on the patient’s report of symptoms, including severity, frequency and duration.

Fact 4: The skin is actually the body’s largest organ, which makes psoriasis a particularly invasive disease!

In many cases, the shame surrounding skin conditions may lead patients to initially refuse to seek medical care. However, the skin is actually the body’s single largest organ, so it can be helpful to re-frame a psoriasis flare-up as if it was happening to the heart, the kidney or the lungs.

This can make it easier to realize how serious psoriasis can be and make getting an accurate diagnosis a priority for sufferers and their families.

Fact 5: Currently there are six categories of treatment options for psoriasis.

While researchers have yet to pinpoint exactly what factors cause psoriasis, progress is well underway to provide effective symptom-alleviating treatments in these six major categories.

  • Topical treatment. Topical medications are designed to ease itching and pain associated with psoriasis.
  • Oral treatment. This newer class of oral medications focuses on inhibiting inflammation that leads to psoriatic flare-ups.
  • Systemic treatment. Systemic, or “whole body” treatment, may be given by mouth or via injection to treat the whole body’s immune system function and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis.
  • Biologic treatment. Biologics are a class of injectables based on human gene proteins. They are usually prescribed when other treatments haven’t worked well.
  • Light therapy uses the administration of medically supervised ultraviolet light to reduce psoriasis flare-ups.
  • Alternative treatment. Herbs, lifestyle changes, acupuncture, tai chi, yoga, meditation and other complementary therapies may also provide relief from symptoms of psoriasis.

In summary, psoriasis is a relatively common, non-infectious yet often quite uncomfortable skin-based autoimmune disease. Living with psoriasis can be challenging at times, but new treatments are continually being developed to ease symptoms while researchers work to better understand root causes for the disease.

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