What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that appears on the skin. It occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells. Psoriasis is not contagious, it commonly causes red scaly patches to appear on the skin, although some patients have no dermatological symptoms. The scaly patches commonly caused by psoriasis, called psoriatic plaques, are areas of inflammation and excessive skin production. Skin rapidly accumulates at these sites which gives it a silvery-white appearance. Plaques frequently occur on the skin of the elbows and knees, but can affect any area including the scalp, palms of hands and soles of feet, and genitals. In contrast to eczema, psoriasis is more likely to be found on the outer side of the joint.

How long has the condition been recognized?

This disorder is a chronic recurring condition that varies in severity from minor localized patches to complete body coverage. Fingernails and toenails are frequently affected and can be seen as an isolated symptom. Psoriasis can also cause inflammation of the joints, which is known as psoriatic arthritis. Ten to fifteen percent of people with psoriasis have psoriatic arthritis.

What is the cause of psoriasis?

The cause of psoriasis is not fully understood, but it is believed to have a genetic component and local psoriatic changes can be triggered by an injury to the skin known as Koebner phenomenon. Various environmental factors have been suggested as aggravating to psoriasis, including stress, withdrawal of systemic corticosteroid, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking but few have shown statistical significance. There are many treatments available but because of its chronic recurrent nature psoriasis is a challenge to treat. Generally for those people who have mild psoriasis; isolated patches on the knees, elbows, scalp and hands and feet, topical treatments, including corticosteroids, synthetic vitamin D3, Enbrel, and over the counter moisturizers, ointments and shampoos are usually sufficient to control the plaques. Treating moderate to severe psoriasis usually involves a combination of treatment strategies. Besides topical treatments your doctor may prescribe phototherapy, also known as light therapy. This involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light on a regular basis and under medical supervision. Treatments are done in a doctor’s office, psoriasis treatment clinic or at home with a home phototherapy unit. The key to success with light therapy is consistency.

How is psoriasis treated?

Systemic medications are prescription drugs that work throughout the body. They are usually used for individuals with moderate to severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Systemic medications are also used in those who are not responsive or are unable to take topical medicationsor.

UV light therapy Biologic drugs are a relatively new class of treatment for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. They are given by injection or intravenous (IV) infusion. A biologic is a protein based drug derived from living cells cultured in a laboratory. Different from the traditional systemic drugs that target the entire immune system, biologics target specific parts of the immune system. The biologics used to treat psoriatic diseases act by blocking the action of a specific type of immune cell called a T cell, or by blocking proteins in the immune system, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) or interleukins 12 and 23. These cells and proteins all play a major role in developing psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.


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