Understanding Psoriasis in 2018: The Signs, Symptoms, and Groundbreaking Research

A chronic disease, psoriasis is the most common type of autoimmune disorder in the United States. The National Psoriasis Foundation reports that an estimated 7.5 million Americans and 125 million people worldwide suffer from the disease. Caucasians are much likelier to develop psoriasis than African Americans. The prevalence among Caucasians is 2.5 percent while the prevalence among African Americans is 1.2 percent.

Psoriasis is chronic, and there is no cure. However, it is possible to manage the disease so that people can enjoy a better quality of life.

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes skin cells to divide too rapidly. The excess skin cells build up on the surface of the skin in layers and form patches. The patches appear scaly and red, and they can itch and be painful. Psoriasis patches often appear on the knees, elbows, and scalp, but the patches might appear anywhere on the body. Psoriasis outbreaks may happen intermittently. There is no cure for the disease, and treatment is focused on helping people to manage the symptoms and to reduce the incidence of outbreaks.

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Symptoms and Causes

There are five different types of psoriasis.

The most common type is plaque psoriasis. The symptoms of plaque psoriasis are red, raised patches of skin that may have a scaly, whitish surface. The patches may itch and be painful.

Another type of psoriasis is guttate psoriasis. People who have this type of the disease may have small red lesions on their bodies. Guttate psoriasis may be triggered by strep infections and commonly begins in childhood or adolescence. Guttate psoriasis affects 10 percent of people who develop psoriasis.

Inverse psoriasis is another type of psoriasis. In this condition, people have small red lesions that appear in skin folds such as under the arms, under the knees, and in the groin area. It is common for people who have inverse psoriasis to experience outbreaks of another form of psoriasis elsewhere on the body at the same time.

Pustular psoriasis is a fourth type of psoriasis. The symptoms include pus-filled blisters that may be confused with acne. The pus is not infectious or contagious. While pustular psoriasis may happen anywhere on the body, it commonly appears on the feet or hands.

The final type of psoriasis is erythrodermic psoriasis. This type of psoriasis is very rare. People who have erythrodermic psoriasis outbreaks should immediately seek medical attention because the outbreaks can be life-threatening. The symptoms of this disease are a widespread fiery rash all over the body. The rash may cause extreme pain and itching, and the skin may peel away from the body in sheets. People may experience extreme spikes in temperature and have problems with body temperature regulation.

Common Treatment Options

People who are diagnosed with psoriasis may have multiple types of treatments to help them to manage their symptoms and to decrease the severity of them. The treatments may broadly be divided into topical treatments, phototherapy treatments, and oral or injected medicines. There is not an identified cure for psoriasis.

Topical treatments for psoriasis

Corticosteroid creams are the most frequently prescribed topical treatments for psoriasis because they help to reduce the itching and inflammation of mild or moderate psoriasis. Another topical treatment that may be prescribed is a vitamin D analog cream because it slows the growth of the skin cells. Topical retinoids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation. Calcineurin inhibitors may be prescribed because they reduce the buildup of plaques and reduce inflammation. Coal tar or salicylic acid creams may be recommended because they reduce scaling.

Phototherapy treatments for psoriasis

There are several phototherapy treatments that may be used to treat psoriasis.

UVB phototherapy may help to lessen the symptoms of psoriasis in people who have mild to moderate forms of the disease. In this treatment, people undergo treatment with controlled exposures to UVB light rays. Goeckerman treatment involves combining UVB phototherapy with coal tar therapy, which makes the treatment more effective because the coal tar enhances the skin’s receptivity of the UVB light. Psoralen plus UVA treatment involves the combination of psoralen medication, which sensitizes the skin to light, with UVA exposure. Finally, the doctor may use an excimer laser to apply controlled beams of UVB light to only the affected skin so that healthy skin will not be harmed.

Oral and injected medicines for psoriasis

People whose psoriasis is severe or who have psoriasis that does not respond to topical treatments or phototherapy may be prescribed oral or injected medications. These medications include the following drugs:

  • Retinoids
  • Methotrexate
  • Biologics
  • Cyclosporine

People who are unable to take these drugs may be prescribed hydroxyurea or thioguanine. In addition to the medical treatments, doctors may recommend that people who have psoriasis make lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, following healthy diets and taking certain supplements.