The National Psoriasis Foundation sponsors Psoriasis Awareness Month each August to raise awareness and encourage research for people living with psoriasis. Psoriasis is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the US, affecting nearly 8 million Americans. The disease can have a huge impact on one’s quality of life beyond the physical manifestation of the disease. Because not everyone is familiar with what causes psoriasis and that it’s not contagious, psoriasis can greatly impact people’s social lives and self-confidence.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a common autoimmune disease characterized by raised red scaly patches on the skin that are often itchy and painful. The dry, sore patches of skin formed by psoriasis can range in size from just a few spots of scaling that resemble dandruff to eruptions that can cover large areas of skin. Psoriasis often presents itself on the scalp, knees, elbows and lower back though it can manifest anywhere. While a chronic disease, severity can fluctuate in one’s lifetime. Psoriasis can begin at any age, though the disease typically manifests in adulthood. While there is no known cure for psoriasis, the symptoms can be managed.
What Causes Psoriasis
Psoriasis is thought to be a result of an auto-immune inflammatory response which leads to excessive growth of skin cells and inflammation. However, external factors can further exacerbate the condition.
Current medical study has indicted that psoriasis is caused by genetic factors in conjunction with environmental factors. In medical research, twin studies, it’s been shown that identical twins, who share the same DNA, are three times more likely to be affected by the causes of psoriasis than non-identical twins, who have differences in their DNA makeup.
It has also been observed that psoriasis symptoms are prone to be worse in the winter months and with the prescription of certain medications. These medications include; NSAIDs and beta blockers. Other factors that can contribute to psoriasis include; psychological stress and infections.
Since the mechanism that underlies psoriasis outbreaks consists of skin cells that are reacting to the person’s immune system, psoriasis is not contagious.
As mentioned earlier, there is no cure for psoriasis, however symptoms can be managed. The physicians who treat psoriasis are Dermatologists. Various treatments include:
- Vitamin D cream
- Steroid creams
- Immune system suppressing medications (ex.- methotrexate)
- Ultraviolet light
- Topical creams such as; tropical corticosteroids, anthralin, salicylic acid and coal tar
Fortunately, approximately 75% of those who with psoriasis can be treated/managed with creams alone. Unfortunately, research has shown that those living with psoriasis have an increased chance of developing; chronic depression, Crohn’s disease, cardiovascular disease, lymphomas and psoriatic arthritis.
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