According to a study by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) around 7.4 million adults are affected by psoriasis in the U.S. and while there are actually five different types of psoriasis you can be affected by, we will concentrate on the most common form of psoriasis, known as plaque psoriasis. The AAD estimates that about 80% of people with a psoriasis condition experience plaque psoriasis.
Just what exactly is plaque psoriasis though?
Plaque Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease which causes your skin production to speed up faster than old skin can slough off. This causes your skin to start building up as scales, adding layer upon layer on your skin’s surface. For someone without the disease, skin cells normally grow deep within your skin, rise slowly to the surface of your skin, and then slough off ,with a typical life cycle being about a month. But if you have psoriasis, the production occurs in just a few days, which doesn’t give the skin cells time to fall off, and that’s what leads to the build-up of skin cells, or psoriatic scales, which are whitish-silver in color on Caucasian skin, (on people of color, the patches of skin may be purple, grayish, or darker brown in color) and develop in thick red patches (known as plaques) that are typically inflamed and sometimes will crack and bleed (ouch!). These plaques are often very itchy and sometimes painful.
What area’s does plaque psoriasis affect?
Scales may develop anywhere on the body, but most often develop on joints, such as elbows and knees. Other common areas of the body where plaque psoriasis is commonly found will be on the face, scalp, lower back, outside of knees and elbows and on the palms & soles of the feet.
Who’s at risk?
Studies show that genes play a factor in at least 10% of people, but only 2% to 3% of the population develops the disease. Researchers believe that the people who develop psoriasis have a combination of the genes that cause it, along with being exposed to specific triggers or external factors. You may be able to identify the triggers that cause you to start or worsen plaque psoriasis, thus limiting the number of cycles you go through.
Some people show signs of psoriasis at a young age, as it may begin at any age, but in others it may develop over time and most diagnoses happen in adulthood. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the average onset age is between 15-35-years-old, with 75% of cases diagnosed before the age of 46. Also according to WHO men and women are affected equally, but there’s more incidence of the disease in people with Caucasian skin, as opposed to people of color.
Noticing the symptoms
There’s no cure for psoriasis, it’s a chronic disease whose symptoms come and go depending on a number of lifestyle factors. Most types of psoriasis come and go cyclically, flaring up for several weeks or months, then subsiding or going into remission for a time. Then, in a few weeks or if made worse by a common psoriasis trigger, the condition may flare up again. The disease can actually go into complete remission for some people. That doesn’t mean psoriasis won’t come back, but in the meantime, they’re symptom-free. There are many kinds of treatment, the goal of which is to stop the skin cells from growing so rapidly and to help manage the symptoms.
The symptoms of plaque psoriasis are different for everyone, but have some common signs you can look for. These include:
- Small scaly spots (most often seen on children)
- Raised, inflamed patches of red skin covered in thick silvery scales (plaques)
- Dry skin that may crack and bleed
- Itching, burning sensations around the patches and possibly soreness around them
- Finger and toe nails that may be thick, pitted or ridged
- Painfully swollen and stiff joints
Is psoriasis contagious!?
No! Psoriasis may look like it is contagious, but the good news is it isn’t. Touching a psoriatic lesion on another person won’t cause you to develop the condition.
Triggering a Cycle
Psoriasis typically starts or worsens because of a trigger that you may be able to identify and avoid, although triggers are not universal. So, basically, what causes one person’s psoriasis to become active, may not affect another. Some of the most common factors that may trigger psoriasis include:
- Strep throat can trigger a cycle, and in fact, it is often the first trigger that sets off psoriasis in children.
- A respiratory infection, bronchitis, tonsillitis or an earache can all cause a flare up.
- Any kind of skin infection or injury to the skin such as a cut, scrape, bug bite, some vaccinations, or severe sunburn. This trigger is called the Koebner [KEB-ner] phenomenon. The Koebner phenomenon can be treated if it is caught early enough.
- For many people stress is primary factor for flare ups or aggravating existing psoriasis
- Vitamin D deficiency can cause a flare up, so getting a little sun may help, but not a lot of sun since sunburn can also cause a flare up.
- Certain lifestyle factors such as smoking cigarettes, or drinking alcohol can be a trigger. Also, a number of the medications that are used to treat symptoms cannot be work with alcohol present in the body.
- A number of medications are associated with triggering psoriasis. These include: Lithium, certain beta blockers such as Inderal, some heart medications such as Quinidine, antimalarial drugs, iodides, certain anti-inflammatories used to treat arthritis such as Indomehacin. Not all of these medications affect all psoriasis cases.
Treatments and When to Come See Us
Be sure to come in for a diagnosis if you have a rash that causes you pain and discomfort; makes it difficult to perform routine tasks; if the appearance of your skin concerns you; or you are having pain and swelling in your joints along with the rash.
We have a variety of treatments we can provide individually or in combination with other treatments, as no single psoriasis treatment works for everyone. It’s very important for you to talk to us about your personal treatment preferences and concerns. We will work with you to create a treatment plan that works best for you and will help alleviate the harsh, uncomfortable symptoms associated with plaque psoriasis. Our goal is to find the most effective way to slow cell turnover with the fewest side effects possible.
Contact us at PremierMD Care if you develop a rash that won’t go away with over-the-counter medication and you suspect it may be psoriasis. Your health and well-being is our biggest priority! Call us for a consultation (239) 500-6363.