Psoriasis

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What is it?

Psoriasis is a skin disease caused by the body mistaking skin cells for harmful pathogens. Although there is still no cure for such a disease, there are many methods used to cope with it. Psoriasis comes from the greek word for “itching condition”, and it comes in five different types: plaque, guttate, inverse, erythrodermic and pustular. Plaque psoriasis is one of the more common form, causing the skin to appear scaly and brighter than usual. The severity of the disease can be measured in the breadth of its bodily spread. Minor cases will only be limited to finger or toenails, while more harmful cases with cover the whole body, and even cause joint inflammation. This will also lead to psoriatic arthritis, which affects up to a third of the sufferers.

Causes

There is speculation that psoriasis is a disease inherited from family members, but the specific cause is still not known. It is not contagious, though some have thought that there must be causes beyond mere genetics.

Problems with the immune system have been cited as one of the probable causes, Doctors have figured that the prevalence of white-blood cells within the patches of abnormal skin, as well as the body’s psoriatic response to immune system suppressants, suggests that it may hold the key to its cause.

Psoriasis however, can develop and even worsen because of certain factors.

A cold and dry climate, for example, will worsen already dry skin. Also, injuries and infections may cause the body to panic and send psoriatic cells to the perturbed areas.

Stress and some medicines like NSAID’s, lithium and beta-blockers are known to worsen symptoms. It is best to advise your doctor if you have it so that they do not give you something that will worsen it.

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Symptoms

According to WebMD, the most common symptom of psoriasis is red, patchy layered with segments of silvery skin. These are normally found around the knees or elbows, but they are not limited to that area.

Each type of psoriasis produces different symptoms but there a few that are generally found in most cases. Since the disease causes itching, peeling or scratching of the pieces of skin is naturally desirable, this may cause the skin to bleed in what is medically known as Auspitz’s sign.

In more severe cases of the disease, nail disorders also occur. Psoriasis will produce tiny, infected pits in the nails, jaundiced toenails, a splitting of the nail from its nail bed and, in rare cases, significant buildup of skin debris below the nail.

Psoriasis is bizarre in that symptoms are known to follow particular bodily patterns, Symmetrical patches on the elbows and knees, and well as raindrop-shaped patches, are not uncommon. People with injuries may also have their cuts taken over by scaly pieces of skin.

Diagnosis

Psoriasis is a fairly easy disease to recognize, but its diagnosis is surprisingly complicated, as other conditions such as eczema have similar symptoms. The most common way to check is to get a biopsy from your doctor, where they will take one of the pieces of dry skin and inspect its composition.

If you have psoriatic arthritis, WebMD provides several options for diagnosis. These include consultation of a patient and their family’s history, as well as blood tests to check for mild anemia, which may suggest the occurrence of the disease. An Erythrocyte sedimentation rate test, which calculates the rate of inflammation, is another method but it is not specific enough to conclude the presence of psoriasis.

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Treatment

The treatment of psoriasis is a two-fold process, though there is no concrete cure for the disease yet. There is firstly the actually prevention of skin cell growth that needs to be dealt with but the emotional consequences of visibly dry skin can also cause embarrassment, so skin creams and ointments are also common. To prevent the chronic drying of skin, substances such as calcipotriene, betamethasone and tazarotene help keep the skin moist.

WebMD indicates that one of the more common methods to treat psoriasis is phototherapy, which combines moisturizers and UV light. Psoralen and UVA light therapy (PUVA) involves taking pills and applying creams that make your skin more susceptible to UV light, thereby speeding the healing process. Either way, the treatment process is both complex, rigorous and repetitive.